‘Hundred-Foot Journey’ charts our personal creative odysseys

“The Hundred-Foot Journey” (2014). Cast: Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal, Charlotte Le Bon, Amit Shah, Farzana Dua Elahe, Dillon Mitra, Aria Pandya, Michael Blanc, Clément Sibony, Juhi Chawla, Shuna Lemoine, Rohan Chand. Director: Lasse Halström. Screenplay: Steven Knight. Book: Richard C. Morais, The Hundred-Foot Journey. Web site. Trailer.

When we embark on the journeys of our lives, we seldom know what awaits us. Yet, if we leave ourselves open to the range of possible experiences available, we enable the potential for a wealth of rewarding and wondrous opportunities for creative fulfillment, many of which are unexpected yet ever so satisfying. Such are the sorts of personal odysseys profiled in the entertaining new comedy-drama, “The Hundred-Foot Journey.”

When an attacking mob destroys the Mumbai restaurant owned by the Kadam family, they lose everything they’ve worked for. But, if that weren’t tragic enough, their grief is magnified by the loss of the family matriarch (Juhi Chawla), who is killed during the incident. With their lives shattered, the Kadams emigrate from India to Europe in search of a fresh start. Leading the way is the family patriarch (Om Puri), who is accompanied by his five children and lovingly guided by the spirit of his departed wife.

The family journeys to the continent not only to search for a new home, but also a suitable location for a new restaurant, continuing the long-standing family tradition. Papa Kadam is eager to open an eatery that showcases the culinary skills of his son, Hassan (Manish Dayal), who has been an ardent devotee of cooking since he was a child (Rohan Chand). But, despite these noble ambitions, the family’s quest is initially fraught with pitfalls, and frustrations quickly mount. However, just as everything seems to be falling apart once again, synchronicity steps in to lend an unexpected hand.

While motoring through rural France, a nearly devastating traffic accident lands the family in the small town of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, a village that’s destined to become their new home. With the aid of a beautiful young Samaritan named Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), the Kadams are welcomed and cared for in their time of need. And, as they await completion of repairs on their vehicle, they stumble upon the ideal location for their new restaurant, a run-down but otherwise-beautiful country estate. Papa sees the potential of this location, despite the protests of his children, and decides to buy the property.

As the villa undergoes renovation, everything seems to proceed well – that is, until the family meets their neighbor, Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren). As the owner of Le Saule Pleurer, an elegant Michelin-rated bistro, Mme. Mallory condescendingly stares down her nose at the new arrivals, especially when she learns of their plans to open a restaurant of their own. Even though the Kadams’ cuisine does not compete with that of their upscale neighbor, Mme. Mallory is sufficiently appalled at the prospect of a noisy, “unrefined” establishment opening up a mere 100 feet away, fearing it will offend her patrons and jeopardize her acclaimed rating.

Once the Maison Mumbai opens, a gastronomic feud ensues, and the flames of this comical dispute are fanned in myriad ways. Tensions rise as circumstances grow progressively more complicated, too, such as when Mme. Mallory’s sous chef – Marguerite – begins fraternizing with the staff of her next-door nemesis. Or when the feuding restaurateurs try to undermine one another by monopolizing the supplies available from local food purveyors. Or when Mme. Mallory is unexpectedly shocked at the extent of Hassan’s kitchen talents. Matters spiral so out of control that even the mayor (Michel Blanc) is called upon to intervene in the culinary quarrel.

But, all roguish gamesmanship aside, the playfully spirited conflict eventually takes an ugly turn, and neither combatant is responsible for the resulting ruin. With the nature of the situation changed, the feuding parties need to adopt a new stance, one aimed at resolving the dispute and taking steps that benefit them both. And, in devising a workable solution, the warring factions ultimately steer the course of events in a surprising new direction, one that proves a winner for all involved.

The mere fact that this film’s title includes the word “journey” implies that its characters partake in an odyssey of sorts, one that inherently includes a rich and diverse array of experiences. As participants in this trek, they’re bound to be affected and changed by what they undergo. This, in turn, fosters their personal evolution, one of the cornerstone principles of conscious creation philosophy, the means by which we shape the reality we each experience. They thereby reflect the conscious creation notion that we’re far from static beings, that we’re each in a constant state of becoming.

Indeed, as the film’s characters make their way through the story, they transform, becoming different people from whom they were when they first embarked on their journeys. And the evolutionary changes they experience occur in many ways, both outwardly in the physical existence of which they’re a part and inwardly in the realm of their being. Their thoughts, beliefs and intents, the means by which they manifest the reality that surrounds them, take them down new, untried, unexplored avenues of possibility. In many respects, they truly embody these principles in their most basic expression. Metaphorically speaking, they clearly journey much farther than the 100 feet the picture’s title suggests.

In doing so, the characters immerse themselves in experiences involving other significant conscious creation concepts. For instance, they learn valuable lessons related to the intrinsic connectedness of all things. Despite the protagonists’ preconceived notions of everyone and everything being separate and apart from one another, they come to realize through the circumstances they materialize that “they’re all in this together.” When confronted with challenges that threaten their collective well-being, they quickly understand that everyone benefits from a spirit of cooperation rather than competition, a belief that speaks to the innate connectedness that binds them to one another. A change in attitude in this regard leads to creations – and solutions – not previously considered, remedies that ultimately advance everyone’s interests. They discover that drawing upon our intrinsic sense of connection and collaboration pays better dividends for everybody than thoughtlessly pursuing aims driven by conflict, ego, bragging rights or other self-serving considerations.

The parties also come to understand the role of synchronicity in the unfolding of their creative journeys. This fortuitous phenomenon often greases the wheels of our evolution, even if it doesn’t always seem that way. The family’s initial tragedy, their subsequent traffic accident and the unforeseen malice later inflicted upon them all may seem like cruel, capricious twists of fate destined to yield demoralizing setbacks. Yet, in each case, the devastation ends up taking circumstances in surprisingly favorable directions.

The trick in making effective use of synchronicity is being cognizant of its occurrence. Rather than curse the heavens, we’d be wise in such situations to ask ourselves, “Why did this happen?” In fact, to make even more effective use of it, we’d serve ourselves well to put it in a conscious creation context by asking ourselves, “So why did I create these conditions?” and “What beliefs are driving these circumstances?” Once we do this, we have an opportunity to uncover the pearl in the metaphysical oyster.

Of course, this also begs us to become awake and aware of how our reality comes into being and what we do specifically to make that happen. It compels us to draw upon all of our perceptive abilities and all of the elements that we employ in the manifestation process, especially our intuition. This is something Papa Kadam is acutely aware of, especially in his seemingly unconventional communications with his departed wife. But such exceptional contact always pays off, resulting in insights that lead to constructive outcomes. One would hope that his example rubs off on others, too – including us.

The biggest payoff that arises from all these realizations is a deeper understanding of the joy and power of creation. The fulfillment that comes from the simple act of manifesting our desires assumes an exalted position of prominence in the consciousness and sensibilities of those working their materialization magic. This is perhaps most obvious in the experience of Hassan, whose lifelong passion takes quantum leaps in advancement when he taps into the conditions that make such progress possible. His experience provides him with a tremendous sense of personal satisfaction – and an inspiring example for all of us to draw upon.

In driving home this point, the film aptly illustrates how unbridled joy can come from a comparatively simple act like cooking, something many of us may take for granted as an everyday mundane task. Yet “The Hundred-Foot Journey” elevates the commonplace to an art form, one to be savored in every respect, from its inception to its completion and eventual consumption. Indeed, the kitchen is an arena that has received considerable attention in this regard in recent years, both in the plethora of television shows celebrating the subject, as well as in a number of other theatrical film releases, including “Chef” (2014), “Le Chef” (2014) and “Haute Cuisine” (2013). But, then, all of these offerings applaud something that nourishes us, just as the conscious creation process itself does.

“The Hundred-Foot Journey” is fairly typical fare from director Lasse Halström, a mildly entertaining melodrama that satisfies nicely, like a good, home-cooked meal. The picture’s luscious cinematography and capable acting are sure to please, despite the film’s need for some judicious editing and its tendencies toward schmaltzy predictability. But these shortcomings are nonetheless compensated for by Mirren’s deliciously wicked performance and the movie’s many exquisite culinary and landscape shots. In short, if you go in without high expectations about this film, you won’t be disappointed.

Our personal creative odysseys often take us in directions we don’t see coming, but those experiences also open us up to parts of ourselves we know little about or never knew existed. That allows our true selves and untapped potential to emerge, making it possible to fulfill ourselves in ways we never dreamed of. And, under such tantalizing circumstances, who knows what we might cook up.

Copyright © 2014, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

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