Hassan sees the differences between his family and the French town, but rather than fight the distinctions, he wants to learn from them. He is fascinated by the world of French cooking and the flavors they bring to the table. Through his love of food, Hassan sees past the hatred and is able to be a catalyst for love (in more than one sense of the word).
“Food is memories,” Hassan says several times. For Hassan, the Indian spices he cooks with instantly take him back to the time when his mother was alive. The five French sauces he learns to cook bring with them the creation of new memories and new relationships—like with the Amélie-esque French beauty (Charlotte Le Bon) who works at Madame Mallory’s Michelin star restaurant.
This “food is memories” mantra might sound familiar: it shows up in another film with similar results. Pixar’s Ratatouille features the nasty French food critic Anton Ego (Peter O’Toole), who gets taken back to his childhood in just one bite. Suddenly mean Mr. Ego’s heart is softened and all is well. The once lonely man suddenly has a full stomach and a handful of new friends.
Similarly, it is the sweet combination of kindness and good food that is able to bring together even the most diverse characters. Just as Hassan tries some twists on French cuisine that lead him to new heights, relationships are forged in the most unexpected of places. These relationships range from the beginnings of young love, to the hilarious bond formed between a stubborn patriarch and uptight workaholic.
The Hundred Foot Journey is a sweet tale that reminds us of an easily forgotten truth: differences aren’t bad—they’re just different. And through those differences we can learn a lot about each other and probably create something new that was never possible until the union of those two things.
Besides, what’s the point of good food and great memories if there’s no one to share them with?
The Hundred Foot Journey is rated PG. Although the film is relatively clean, there are a few things worth noting. There are two mildly violent scenes that involve fire. One character’s hands are badly burned and we see the wounds for a few seconds. There is a brief moment where it is suggested that two characters just had a sexual encounter, but nothing is actually shown. Aside from one s-word and a character taking the Lord’s name in vain once, there is no profanity. Viewers may be uncomfortable with the discriminatory phrases made against the Indian family, but there is nothing over the top. Overall, it’s a family-oriented film that creates a great space for the discussion of cultural differences and how we can not only accept them, but learn from them.
Larisa Kline is CT Movies' summer intern and a student at The King's College in New York City. Follow her on twitter @larisakline.