As a food lover, it’s pretty exciting to see that food movies are becoming more and more of a thing. The latest contribution is The Hundred-Foot Journey, directed by Lasse Hallstrom, whose previous food-related films include Chocolat. The Hundred-Foot Journey follows young refugee Hassan (Manish Dayal) whose family has fled from the politically-motivated destruction of their restaurant back in Mumbai, an event during which his mother was killed, and looms heavy over the entire family, especially Papa (Om Puri.) Deciding that the weather in England is a bit too depressing, the vegetables too bland and their home under the Heathrow flightpath a bit too noisy (I feel them there!), the entire family drives their blue Volkswagen van to a small town in France, where they decide to open an Indian restaurant directly across the street from Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren)’s Michelin starred French restaurant.
The movie has a sense of humour about the immigrant experience. Besides the ugly racism in the form of graffiti that the family encounters, there are some small beats which emphasise the immigrant experience – at one point an immigration officer tells Hassan’s sister Mahira (Farzana Dua Elahe) that they need to make sure that she’s not being trafficked into Europe for an arranged marriage. The movie also clearly has a positive attitude about the contributions that immigrants make to the food and culture – and as someone who loves to combine aspects of British traditional food with my American background, I’m obviously a big fan of the idea that fusion food can benefit both immigrant and native cultures, which is a message the movie really believes in – and emphasises with loving shots of the cuisine being served at both restaurants.
I was a bit disappointed in the characterisation of Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), the local French girl who serves as Hassan’s love interest. The character isn’t very well spelled out and her motivation is quite unclear – she does a heel-faced turn from competitive to romantic without much explanation! But it’s a sweet movie, with messages of tolerance and the need for food to bring cultures together and I’d really recommend it.