First Hit: A wonderful film although I thought the middle was long and a little slow.
The premise was great: A family coming from India to France via England to create a livelihood for themselves. Would they find a way to make it?
They were restaurateurs in India and this was what they knew. Papa (Om Puri) was in control of his family and after he lost his wife, he did his best to guide his family in a single direction, together. His younger son Hassan (Manish Dayal) had the gift of being able to cook. His mother had taught him about spices and how to use them in food.
The family settles into a large building across the street from a restaurant run by Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren) who has a single Michelin Star. She is obsessive about the star, her restaurant and is a difficult taskmaster about how the restaurant works, presents itself and the food they serve. She is not happy about the Indian music and curry smells coming from her new neighbor.
One of her sous-chefs Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon) takes a liking to Hassan and their relationship both professionally and personally grows. The scenes where each kitchen is chopping food in a war-like competition were fun. The beauty of the food on the plates - wonderful. The growing relationship between the two families was fun to watch.
Where the film got lost for me was shortly after Hassan moves to Mallory’s kitchen and through the part when he was in Paris learning how to cook through science and chemistry. Where was the real angst of this soulless work? Where was the real longing to get back to cooking real natural food.
I don’t know if the film would have been interesting with another middle, but the end was obvious from the beginning and I think there was another way to get there.
Puri was sublime. His portrayal of being and Indian entrepreneur protecting and doing what was best for his family was simply great. Dayal was really good as the son who had the cooking talents. Mirren was her usual fantastic self. She made me fully believe she was a Michelin Star restaurateur. Le Bon was a ray of light in this film and her smile made each of her scenes, alone, worth watching. Stephen Knight wrote an interesting screenplay although at times it seemed too involved. The story could have been simpler. Lasse Hallstrom directed this film with a great eye for color, scene staging, and sense of feeling. Again, not to belabor, somewhere in the middle I became a bit disinterested, only to find it the story to pick up again in the end.
Overall: I enjoyed this film and thought that each scene was wonderfully executed.