Michelin stars are at stake in a delightful war of restaurants and culinary traditions set in provincial France. Butter and garlic meets cumin and curry powder and it all blends splendidly. The Kadam family seek asylum after a firebombing of their family run restaurant in Mumbai due to an election dispute, finding themselves in England before realising that the Heathrow fly pass is no place to live, electing to venture into Europe where they find their van breaking down in a small French town.
Contrary to frequent (and recent) depictions of bumbling ‘fish out of water’ Indians in mainstream Western movies, the Kadams are shown to be resilient and strong as a family, which makes their company so enjoyable. They open up their restaurant opposite to a Michelin star French restaurant owned by Madame Mallory (Hellen Mirren) with their bold flavours and spices colliding with the restraint and subtleties of traditional French cuisine. Despite donning a faux-French accent, Mirren is a tour-de-force as Madame Mallory, commanding the instant respect and austere demeanour the role requires. Playing the family’s father, Om Puri matches Mirren with every step. A seasoned actor in Indian cinema, he’s wonderful as a man not to be trifled with, but with a sense of humour to match. It’s a warm, rich smelling film which does outstay its welcome somewhat – the last 20 minutes or so are superfluous, creating unnecessary conflict as the son finds success and then goes off the deep end – but it’s funny with some great performance and a family who feel real and recognisable, full of strength and great curries.
The Hundred-Foot Journey is out now in the UK. Running time 122 mins. Certificate PG (UK).
Review by David Rank