A culture clash over tastes – of the culinary and cultural kind – that’s the premise of The Hundred-Foot Journey. The distance between the Kadam family’s Indian restaurant Maison Mumbai and their rival Madame Mallory’s (Helen Mirren) fancy Michelin-starred French restaurant is literally just 100 feet across the road.
After a fire engulfs their family run restaurant in Mumbai, destroying their lives and shattering their family, the widower patriarch Kadam (Om Puri) and his family of children relocate to France in the hope of opening a new restaurant there. They find a spot in the Midi Pyrenees but while the vegetables might be fresh and juicy, the locals are guarded and suspicious of these outsiders and their strange spices.
Undeterred, the Kadams open Maison Mumbai, thereby inviting the wrath of their neighbour Madame Mallory who is desperately seeking a second Michelin star rating for her restaurant. Little does she realize her star is cooking in the Kadam kitchen.
Hassan (Manish Dayal), Kadam’s son, is an instinctively good cook with ambitions of becoming a head chef one day. He finds encouragement for this interest from local girl Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon). Love blossoms over ripe tomatoes, freshly picked wild mushrooms and a variety of sauces. For Hassan, “food is memories” and this becomes the pivot on which this film turns.
Director Lasse Hallstrom (Chocolat) directs this film based on the book by Richard C Morais to make a charmer with all the right ingredients led by two rock solid actors – Puri and Mirren. Sadly he garnishes it clichés and is further letdown by a third act, which loses pace. The drama peaks too early and then fizzles out before time. There is also too much emphasis on the French restaurants and their obsession with Michelin star ratings and not enough on the Indian kitchen. But the cooking and market scenes are evocative, as all good food movies should be, tantalizing your taste buds. A R Rahman’s music, especially the jugalbandi between western and Indian music during a montage cutting between the two kitchens, adds another fine layer to this enjoyable fusion film.