As political, social and religious wars rage around the world and we hear of the bloodshed of children, the most innocent among us, most other topics seem petty to discuss.
Yet the new film The Hundred Foot Journey is just what the world needs right now. I’ll even predict this movie will be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar because of its relevance in 2014, premiering when strife between people of different cultures and beliefs continue to make headlines.
Young chef Hassan Kadam, his father and four siblings emigrate from Mumbai after a personal tragedy. They look to find someplace to live in Europe where the fruits and vegetables “have soul.” When their van breaks down in a small village in the South of France Papa declares they’ve found their place and chooses to open an Indian restaurant 100 feet from a highly acclaimed French restaurant owned by Helen Mirren’s character.
Competition ensues and outrageous neighborly conduct sets the two sides at odds. Food is the one common denominator that at least keeps them talking.
The Hundred Foot Journey depicts the classic struggle of prejudice and why people do not having compassion for others because of fear. When we live in our own safety bubbles we are often blind to the persecution others endure. This film begs the question: What would happen if just one person from each of the enemy sides really got to know the other?
The Hundred Foot Journey also feeds the soul as much as it does the senses, with descriptions of food and the passion for preparing it elevated to art. The novel is written by the same author who wrote the other great food story, Chocolat. When I walked out of the movie, which I saw on a whim opening night with my mom and three of my kids, my mood was lighter and I felt better for it. Plus, I felt inspired to whip up an omelet.
Unlike the dizzyingly fast paced, weak plotted films of late, The Hundred Foot Journey isn’t short on anything, but it’s plot is especially strong and its characters are ones viewers won’t soon forget. Hassan has a passion for cooking and learning, but as outside influences creep in he stays true to his family and Indian culture. Papa is colorful and stubborn, yet loves his children and encourages the gifts they have to offer the world, a patriarch all fathers should emulate. Marguerite is kind and sincere, yet we see her emotionally grow over the course of the film as well.
My kids enjoyed The Hundred Foot Journey though they’ve never seen a film quite like it, so centered on food and set in a different culture. It’s rated PG because there are two dramatic fire scenes where some characters show the evil prejudice often inflicts on humanity. There are a few kisses and one scene where two characters are shown tucking in their clothes, which will go over most kids’ heads.
In the end it’s a story about family, loyalty, going for what we love and a reminder that sometimes life’s biggest lessons may come from the shortest Hundred Foot Journey.