The Hundred-Foot Journey (3 stars)

The Hundred-Foot Journey

Helen Mirren is on fine form in a sentimental culinary culture clash drama

Swapping cocoa for curry powder, Lasse Hallström’s latest is a culinary tale based on the book by Richard C Morais with a screenplay by Steven Knight (Locke, Eastern Promises). Recalling his Juliette Binoche-starrer Chocolat, Hallström again wants us to believe in the transformative and magical properties of food, as is the requirement of so many films in this mini genre. But this rather picaresque tale of an Indian family opening a restaurant in rural France never really indulges our senses.

Indeed, you might say The Hundred-Foot Journey doesn’t know what it wants to be. A foodie film? A rom-com? A family saga? It’s all three, but only in a baggy, undisciplined sort of way. The family in question are the Kadams, who have come from India (via a brief stopover in soggy old England) to settle in the Gallic countryside, when their slightly pig-headed patriarch (Om Puri) decides to open an eatery. Directly opposite their colourful Maison Mumbai is a Michelin-starred restaurant, run by Helen Mirren’s snooty Madame Mallory.

With the two owners soon at loggerheads, Hallström beefs up the culture clash, as each tries to ruin the other’s trade. To add some Bombay spice to the mix, Hassan (Manish Dayal) – who is the skilled cook of the Kadam clan, having learnt from his late mother – is drawn to Madame Mallory’s sous chef, the petite and kindly Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), who introduces the eager Hassan to the art of French cooking.

Co-produced by Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey, The Hundred-Foot Journey boasts Hallmark-levels of sentimentality. Which would be fine, not least because Mirren is on imperious form, were it not for a disastrously undercooked third act, which sees Hassan head off to Paris. With more drama to be found in an episode of MasterChef, it’s an insipid conclusion to a journey that had promise.

General release from Fri 5 Sep.

The Hundred Foot Journey - Official Trailer

The Hundred-Foot Journey

  • 3 stars
  • 2014
  • India / United Arab Emirates / USA
  • 2h 2min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Lasse Hallstrom
  • Written by: Steven Knight
  • Cast: Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal
  • UK release: 5 September 2014

Indian patriarch Papa (Puri) decides to open a restaurant in the French countryside, directly opposite a Michelin-starred joint run by Madame Mallory (Mirren); cue romantic complications between son Hassan (Dayal) and Mallory's sous-chef Marguerite (Le Bon). Mirren's imperiousness almost redeems it, but an undercooked…