The Hundred-Foot Journey: A Delicious Fusion

Oscar-nominated director Lasse Hallström serves us a tasty treat in the fairy-tale style of his previous, acclaimed Chocolat (2000). The underlying ingredient that spices up the story this time is more than just dainty sweets. This one is surprisingly gratifying.

Produced by Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey, “The Hundred-Foot Journey” is adapted from the light-hearted novel of the same name by Richard C. Morais. Oscar nominated screenwriter Steven Knight (Eastern Promises, 2007) has done a marvelous job in turning the cartoonish style of a book into a robust and more complex cinematic parable, with dashes of humor and clever dialogues for added delights.

THFJ Movie Poster

The story is most relevant today in our world overwhelmed by warring differences and conflicts. It is an immigrant story. It also presents an ideal case of how cultures can coexist and harmony can be found in diversity.

The Kadam family leaves India after the tragic loss of their mother and their family restaurant in a fire caused by an angry mob. After a short stay in London, Papa (Om Puri) leads his family to settle in the picturesque village of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val in Southern France. The first few minutes of back story is concise and captivating.

Papa soon finds a derelict restaurant for sale. His own Maison Mumbai, the first Indian restaurant in the vicinity is subsequently opened, a seemingly arduous venture. Papa is a headstrong patriarch, undeterred by the initial protests of his sons, and the Michelin starred Le Saule Pleureur across the street. The proprietor of that haute cuisine establishment is the formidable Madam Mallory (Helen Mirren), who is determined to drive her competitor out.

On opposite sides of this one-hundred-foot wide roadway thus rage the battle of sights, sounds, and aromas, of spices and sauces, ambiance and costumes, an all-out war of clashing cultures.

Indian spices

Hassan (Manish Dayal) is the head cook of the Kadam family. He has learned the skills from his late mother; loving memories of her cooking fuel his gastronomic passion. Furthermore, Hassan is endowed with a distinct talent for the culinary art. He is most ready to explore brave new tastes.

The young sous chef across the street, Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), plays no small part in Hassan’s curiosity of French cooking. The two strike up an ambivalent relationship as both friends and foes.

After Madam Mallory discovers the gift in Hassan, she offers to take him under her wings. Such a proposition is, expectedly, rejected by Papa. However, it is Hassan’s decision and passion after all. His determination soon overrides the objection from Papa.

By taking his first step to cross the great hundred-foot divide, Hassan turns the page of both parties in the cuisine conflicts. His journey ultimately leads to an additional Michelin star for Le Saule Pleureur and fame for himself. Hassan’s excelling and competing in the qualifying challenge in Paris is the bridge reconciling the two sides of the road.

It is fun to see the hostile rivals Madam Mallory and the patriarch of the Kadam family coming together. Their changed demeanor brings out the latent, better qualities of each other, offering us some nuanced performance and heart-warming scenes. I must note that there were constant, spontaneous laughs and even restrained applause in the theatre of the preview screening I was in.

Peace offering

The film itself is a smorgasbord of international talents. Acclaimed Swedish director Lasse Hallström takes the helm. English Screenwriter Steven Knight adapts a novel by Richard C. Morais, an American born in Portugal and raised in Switzerland. English star Dame Helen Mirren masters some French accented English dialogues, her previous Oscar winning role as The Queen is amusingly embedded. Papa Om Puri is a veteran Indian actor with a British OBE honor. Mandish Dayal who plays Hassan is American born of Indian descent; his love interest is the up-and-coming actress Charlotte Le Bon (also in Yves Saint Laurent, 2014), a French-Canadian from Montreal.

Director of photography Linus Sandgren (American Hustle, 2013, Swedish born BTW) entices viewers with his close-ups of fresh fruits, vegetables, spices, and market offerings. For those who may wonder, those spiked, round objects are sea urchins. The agile and well-paced sequences of food being prepared are most effective. In contrast, the wide-angle, bird’s eye views of the picturesque Southern France countryside are equally mesmerizing.

Music is an important ingredient in the film. Composed by the prolific A. R. Rahman, who won two Oscars for his work in Slumdog Millionaire, the score adds a distinguished Indian flare. With the lively Indian music juxtaposed against the backdrop of serene Southern France, the film offers viewers some interesting mixes of sights and sounds.

There are times when the editing could be tighter, scenes that need to be made clearer and more coherent, especially in the last third of the film. However, the overall production is a delicious offering. The gratifying finish serves the idea that, apart from the Michelin, home is where the ultimate star is to be found, a thought to savor and an enticement for tasting it all over again. I know I will go for a second helping.

~ ~ ~ Ripples


Awards Update:

Dec. 11: Helen Mirren gets a Golden Globe nom for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical

Other Related Posts on Ripple Effects:

My book review of The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais

Haute Cuisine Movie Reivew

Gourmet Rhapsody by Muriel Barbery 

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If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

34 thoughts on “The Hundred-Foot Journey: A Delicious Fusion”

  1. I heard a review about this one over the weekend on public radio and thought it sounded interesting but you have really sold it to me. Plus, I really like Helen Mirren 🙂


  2. I’ve heard of this movie but didn’t know what it was about or who was in it, so thanks for the review. It sounds like something I’d like. I love Helen Mirren. She never lets me down.


    1. Ti,

      It’s an adaptation from a popular book published a couple of years ago. I think the screenplay is very well written. Helen Mirren in a seldom seen kind of role. You’ll like it.


  3. I’ve wanted to see this since the trailers have aired all of August so far. Care not a bit about Oprah, but I like Helen Mirren, and I’d see it just for her. Not to mention your ripples as well.


    1. Bellezza,

      There are certainly many Helen Mirren fans out there in the blogosphere. She’ll be happy to hear that… people coming out just to watch her. But other than her nuanced performance, there are lots more to enjoy as well. I’m sure you’ll like this one. 😉


  4. A friend and I were having one of those crazy conversations this weekend. Both of us remembered hearing of a movie we wanted to see, but we couldn’t remember (1) the title, (2) the cast, or (3) the plot. Aren’t we something?

    This is it! I’ve already sent my friend an email with your review in it, and a suggestion that we make time in our schedule to see it. Just for fun, I added the link to your review of Haute Cuisine, too. That will be a little harder to find, I suppose, but maybe we can do it.

    Thanks for the great reviews!


    1. Linda,

      Glad you’ve re-discovered your mystery movie here. 😉 Do come back and share your view after you’ve seen it. I’d love to hear from you about it. Yes, the film Haute Cuisine is hard to find. I saw it on Netflix. Maybe you can search your public library to see if they carry the DVD.


  5. I’ve been looking forward to this one and hope to see it over the weekend (before it leaves!). Sally Tharpe Rowles wrote on her blog about spending her summer in the area where it was filmed and her disappointment that she will be returning to the states before the French premiere there next month. Everything about it looks wonderful — the only thing that could make it better would be a concession stand that serves the food in the movie!


    1. Jeanie,

      Ingenious idea! Anything to spice up the ordinary concession offerings of popcorn, sodas and candies. Do come back and share your thoughts after you’ve seen it. 😉


  6. Hi Arti,

    Saw this film twice in 4 days, after reading your review, which is as always spot on and full of interesting tidbits, I am enticed into going for a third helping….yum!
    Looking forward to your next review.

    Yin ling


    1. Yin Ling,

      Real good! Have you started to try some fusion flare, like, spicing up your omelette with cumin or curry? That’s one of my favourite scenes… when Hassan directing Madam Mallory to make the omelette. 😉


  7. You do make it sound so delicious. I’ve been waiting for this film for ages. It started here this week, now I just have to get a day off work (and a day off from coughing) and I can go see it.


  8. Well, this one most definitely did not disappoint! Rick and I saw it last night — and Oh! What a delight. I thought the performances were marvelous (especially Papa and Helen Mirren, of course). It was such a gentle film, one with restraint yet such abundance! The food photography was to die for. I found it an interesting contrast when Hassam went from the brilliant color of Maison Mumbai and the restrained but clearly classic and elegant French restaurant to the modern, austere and — dare I say cold — Parisian restaurant. It felt so wrong to see this ebullient spirit in this setting and of course set up his return.

    I’m curious if the spontaneous applause was in the scene where Mme. Mallory called her staff together and had a few words about Liberty, Equality and Fraternitie. That evoked a nearly (spotty) similar reaction in our theatre.

    Favorite moment — well, the one immediately following that (in the rain) and also her first taste of the omelet — you see only her back and her posture tells it all. I could see myself seeing this again and maybe even adding it to the collection.

    (After, we had a discussion that it reminded us on another favorite food movie, “Big Night” — and after, all we wanted was Indian food!)


    1. Jeanie,

      The restrained cheers and applause happened in many scenes throughout the film, but mainly the beginning to the middle part. I esp. remember the scene when Mme. Mallory can’t get any fresh seafood from the market, has a taste of her own medicine so to speak, there were cheers, however muffled. And you’re absolutely right about that nuanced body language from the back when she tries the omelette, yes, that’s good acting/directing. I’m glad (and knew) you’d enjoy it. Great that Rick likes it too.


  9. I’m just back from seeing the film, Arti, and it was completely delightful. There were chuckles throughout from the audience, but the most obvious response came when Papa looked at his son’s photo in the magazine and said, “He looks like a terrorist.” It’s hard to describe the reaction – it sounded for all the world like relieved laughter that someone had said the word.

    I certainly would give it three Ripples, although, on a scale of 1-10, I’d give it a 9.5. My only quibble was that there were a few scenes unnecessarily drawn out (saucemaking, for example) and I thought Hassan’s decision to return home could have moved a little more quickly. But in the overall scheme of things, those are only small quibbles. I thought the interwoven plot lines were believable, and the development of the relationships didn’t seem at all strained.

    Now I have to figure out what to see next!


    1. Linda,

      Yes, I can imagine your laugh in the theatre when you heard that line. I was expecting something of that sort would come out of the mouth of Papa. Sure enough, he delivererd. Glad you’d enjoyed it… as I’d expected. Yes, the last i/3 of the film needs tighter editing. But overall, it was quite a ride, wasn’t it? I’m still at TIFF, have seen some interesting stuff. Will not post until I’m back. So… a little hiatus at the pond. But still open for pebbles to be thrown in to stir up some ripples.


    1. Courtney,

      Thanks for stopping by and reading my review. As much as this is a charming film, I think the chance of it drawing Oscar attention is slim. The competition is keen. And in my opinion, The Grand Budapest Hotel would be in a much better standing. Have you seen it? Or Boyhood. And then there are several others yet to be released. Exciting Award Season coming up. 😉


  10. Oh dear, I really am behind with your posts. I’ve also seen this one – back in August. Light, predictable, but beautifully acted, a lovely story and great setting. Good, clean fun. Manish Dayal is not only gorgeous but his acting was wonderful too.


    1. WG,

      Oh yes, it’s been quite a long while since you visit the pond. But glad to have you back. I thought you’ve forgotten me. 😉 And yes, this is a delightful film, reminds me of Marigold Hotel… but even better made I think.


      1. Oh no I hadn’t forgotten you, Arti. Never that! This has been an incredibly busy year with lots of trips away. For some months I barely kept up with my own blog but I’m now getting around the traps again, as we settle in for the rest of the year with just one more trip away.


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