The Hundred Foot Journey

Director: Lasse Hallström (2014)

There’s a generous helping of charm and humour in this culinary culture clash.

Talented young Indian chef Hassan (Manish Dayal) is taught to cook by his mum but when she dies in a riot, his Papa (Om Puri) moves the family to Europe for safety.

The family are rescued from a car crash in rural France by local beauty Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon). An aspiring chef, she cycles about in vintage frocks with the doe-eyed appeal of Audrey Hepburn.

Seduced by the quality of the local food and setting, Papa decides to open an Indian restaurant. The family then energetically set about renovating a derelict bistro into a loud and colourful eatery.

Gifted Hassan manages to mix traditional Indian recipes with French cuisine, much to the anger of Madame Mallory who owns a restaurant a hundred feet away. She’s played by a terrifically tart Helen Mirren who has great fun as the extravagantly accented workaholic widow.

Normally I would choke on the film’s symbolic use of food, adoration of cooks and idealised view of the French. But the deft direction, spicy script and engaging performances make for an indulgent blend.

As Madame Mallory and Papa lock horns, the younger ones lock lips – but simmering passions cool when she poaches Hassan and promotes him above Marguerite. Further success sees Hassan working in Paris but Michelin stars and celebrity fail to feed his soul.

The finale serves up no surprises and if living in France were as satisfying as this film suggests, we’d all be moving there.

☆☆

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