Director: Lasse Hallström
Starring: Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal, Charlotte Le Bon, Amit Shah
Running Time: 122 Minutes
In THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY director Lasse Hallström explores how opening a new food-related business in a small French village causes plenty of drama, just like in his film CHOCOLAT (2000). Based on the novel by Richard C. Morais, the story centres around the Kadam family from India, who drift around Europe after fleeing from their home and restaurant after it was burnt down. When they eventually arrive in France, they believe their Indian restaurant could work among the traditional French cuisine on offer to the locals but it isn’t an easy ride for Papa (Om Puri) and his family, as they coincidentally set up their restaurant just across from Madame Mallory’s (Helen Mirren) high-class establishment.
The idea of bringing Indian food and culture to France, who are famous all over the world for their cuisine, is alluring to say the least. Like Jon Favreau’s CHEF, food is a family affair and brings people together. THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY is very much of that ilk as the camera focuses constantly on the fresh produce sold in the village – it almost feels like you could pick them out of the screen.
From the beginning, it’s suggested that the spirit of the dead mother is leading the Kadam family to their delicious future but thankfully they don’t overdo this sentiment and it appears to be forgotten as the story progresses. In a way, it seems like the family’s determination to push forward is just pure faith and optimism (not just a spirit), which works well here.
You would be forgiven for remembering Helen Mirren’s role in THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE & HER LOVER (1989), famous for making Michael Gambon eat human flesh. This time, Mirren plays Madam Mallory, a snobbish restaurateur wanting to get rid of the Kadam family’s business just opposite hers. In one scene in Mallory’s restaurant where she talks to her staff, the camera films them from outside the kitchen, framing them as if they are in a prison with bars. This clever cinematography signifies from her very entrance, that she has to have control over everything. But it’s worth noting that despite Mirren’s face and name getting top billing on film posters and DVDs, the film mainly focuses on Hassan’s growing career and family.
Setting aside the numerous cliches in THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY, the fiery performances from Mirren and Puri manages to keep you attentive, while the rest disappointingly becomes a take-away not worth paying the full price for.
[usr=3] THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY is released on DVD & Blu-Ray from 9th March