The Hundred Foot Journey

Year: 2015
Production Co: Amblin Entertainment
Studio: Walt Disney
Director: Lasse Hallström
Writer: Steven Knight
Cast: Om Puri, Helen Mirren, Manish Dayal, Charlotte Le Bon

It's not much of a surprise to learn the director behind this food porn love story is Lasse Hallström, the dewey-eyed romantic behind Chocolat. With the pretty young girl pedalling a bicycle down a country lane to pick fresh mushrooms for a recipe she's serving in the farm village restaurant she works for, you know exactly what kind of territory you're in.

A family patriarch, Papa (Om Puri) has decided to leave India after the sectarian violence that killed his beloved wife, so he takes his extended family to live in Europe.

After their car breaks down near a picturesque village in France, there happens to be a property that would be perfect for a restaurant (which happens to be the family business). Hassan (Manish Dayal) is a chef prodigy just waiting to happen, and despite everybody's protests, Papa buys the place and they're open for business.

Romantic and comic hijinks ensue with the snooty house of fine French cuisine right across the rustic street in no time. The poised and matronly proprietress, Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren) doesn't take kindly to competition, and her pretty young chef Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon) and Hassan start to fall for each other despite being professional rivals.

There's a lot going on, but the movie's all about sunlight-dappled fields, winsome glances and photogenic cuisine as much as it is a story. It reminds you of Ridley Scott's A Good Year, another tale of a completely fantasy France where the landscapes are as beautiful as the people are and the chain smoking and racial violence France is better known for nowadays are nowhere to be seen.

It's easy to dismiss as frothy fluff, and Dame Helen's accent does seem to swing more than a Hollywood producer in the 1970s, but it's actually a good metaphor for restaurant dining itself – a collection of different but complimentary flavours who's sole purpose is enjoyment.

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