I was 13 when I saw my first foreign language film at the Academy Cinema in Christchurch. My Life as a Dog was by Swedish director Lasse Hallstrom and it had a massive influence on me; it's one of the reasons I do what I do.
His most recent films haven't had the same impact. Nicholas Sparks adaptations Safe Haven and Dear John are from Hallstrom's newer "Hallmark card" style of filmmaking; perfectly pleasant, engaging and predictable escapism.
So although The Hundred-Foot Journey may not live up to Hallstrom's memorable classics such as What's Eating Gilbert Grape or Oscar winning The Cider House Rules, fans of Chocolat (2000) staring Juliette Binoche will notice similarities.
Both Chocolat and The Hundred-Foot Journey feature interlopers who settle in small provincial French towns and where at the centre of their relationships is a passionate love of food.
In The Hundred-Foot Journey, these interlopers are an exiled Indian family led by patriarch Papa (Puri), who decides to open an Indian restaurant in a quaint town opposite a Michelin-starred restaurant run by Madame Mallory (Mirren).
Papa and Mallory are equally stubborn, and Puri and Mirren are well matched as they stand outside their restaurants throwing insults across the street. In lesser hands the characters may have been cliche, but the excellent comedic timing of these veterans ensures they're affable and amusing.
The younger family members find common ground quicker than the parents, with Puri's charismatic son Hassan (Dayal) getting a grounding in traditional French cuisine thanks to Marguerite (Le Bon), one of Madame Mallory's young chefs. Friendships are lost and found, and family dynamics challenged as new opportunities allow Hassan to pursue his dream of becoming a renowned chef.
It may play out predictably, and feature more fake fireworks than it should, but The Hundred-Foot Journey is charming, with enough heart and genuine laughs to forgive its formulaic nature.
Helen Mirren, Manish Dayal, Om Puri, Charlotte Le Bon
Pleasant, picturesque entertainment.