The Hundred Foot Journey is a light hearted movie about some serious topics. On the surface, it’s a story about an Indian family that travels to France and starts an Indian restaurant right across the street from a famous French restaurant, which induces a rather comical war between Madame Mallory, the owner of the French restaurant, and Papa, the owner of the Indian restaurant. Beyond the surface, however, it’s a movie about success, racism, taste, competition, jealousy, forgiveness, love and restoration.
There are so many life lessons in this movie, and so many themes I won’t attempt to tackle them all. You could use any one of them, not only as a point of discussion about the movie and about life, but also as a way to connect to the Bible, as it has much to say about all of these themes. Instead, I think I will focus a little on Madame Mallory. Although the movie follows the young son, Hassan, as he learns to cook not only his native Indian food, but also the French cuisine and becomes a master chef, it is Madame Mallory who seems to grow and change the most throughout the movie.
Madame is unhappy. She is always unhappy, notoriously so. She has reached a significant level of fame and success, but plateaued, and she is haunted by her inability to achieve the next star in the French rating system. This has made her insecure and unhappy.
Madame is also hostile to her new neighbors, determined to sabotage their success. In part she is insecure and afraid of the competition, but in addition to that, she is a snob and the new neighbors do not have her “class” or “taste” and so she sees them as a blight upon the neighborhood. Papa would have been willing to be friends with Madame, but she made that impossible and when pushed, rather than becoming a friend, Papa became a formidable rival.
The change in Madame began when she realized the talent Hassan had as a chef, but the real change occurred when Hassan was injured in a fire that was a result of her poor leadership, jealousy and snobbery. She realized that she was to blame for the injury to Hassan, and it broke her. She softened, repented and desired to make it right. She determined to take Hassan under her wing and to teach him to be a French master chef.
As Hassan walked the hundred feet from his home to Madame Mallory’s (it was both home and restaurant), he bridged the gap, not only between the two restaurants, but between the two warring families. He learned her skills and the French ways of cooking, but he livened things up by bringing with him his heritage and spices and approach to food. As a result, her restaurant finally achieved the next star she had been searching for, and she found love (with Papa).
There are so many lessons to be found in this. When she began to think of other people and put Hassan’s well-being before her own, she herself benefitted. By being willing to elevate Hassan, she herself was elevated. The Bible says to seek first the Kingdom of God, and then all these things will be added unto you. She may not have realized that she was seeking out the Kingdom of God, but part of God’s Kingdom is that we love our neighbor as ourselves, which is what changed in Madame Mallory. After she did that, things were added to her.
The Bible also says that “a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger”. Madame and Papa were both guilty of harsh words and stirring up anger. Their feud continued to escalate because neither was willing to respond with gentleness or humility. Madame threatened to report Papa for loud music, Papa threatened to report her for child abduction. When Hassan said that his Papa was wrong to buy up all of the ingredients Madame would need for her special one night, Papa defended his actions by saying, “She did it to us; we do it to her”. Hassan was the only one who had the wisdom to see that retaliation would only stir up more trouble, that what was needed was a gentle and humble response…and he was the one who brought peace between the two.
Madame felt that the star would make her happy, but she was wrong. She found happiness before she achieved the star, and she found it in relationships. This is why God says the most important things in the world are our relationship with Him and our relationships with others. Nothing else will satisfy us if those two things are not in place. Also, she found success, not through competing with others, but through collaborating with them. The people she saw as her biggest enemies and her biggest threats became her best friends, help and defenders. There is much we can learn from that.
Questions for Discussion:
- What life lessons did you see in the movie?
- How did Madame Mallory grow and change in the movie?
- How did Madame Mallory’s jealousy and insecurity hurt her own business, her neighbors’, and nearly destroy Hassan?
- Who was the most like Jesus, Madame Mallory, Papa or Hassan, and why?
- Who are you most like, Madame Mallory, Papa or Hassan?
- Madame felt the star would make her happy. What are the things you feel will make you happy?
- The people Madame Mallory saw as her biggest enemies and her biggest threats became her best friends, help and defenders. Has that ever happened to you?
- How might you treat your “enemies” differently if you knew they had the potential to become your friends and supporters? Do you think maybe Jesus was on to something when he said to love your enemies?
 Matthew 6:33, “ But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
 Matthew 22:27-40, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
 Proverbs 15:1