I found myself laughing from the first scene of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. A woman listened to an automated, disembodied phone voice telling her thank you for your patience. The scene rang so true – I have had several frustrating experiences with call centres and telephone companies – that I was captivated from the start.
The film centres on a group of older people, thrown together by fate and circumstance. A cacophony of characters is introduced in England, which has been their natural habitat. All have reasons for moving to a retirement home in the sun, where costs are low and the promise of life is good. The adventurers include:
• A woman who has decided there is more to life than being a babysitter for her grandchildren.
• A woman who has been told that she can get a hip operation faster and cheaper if she goes abroad.
• A woman recently bereaved whose focus for forty years has been her family.
• A woman who has taken to seeing life as a glass half empty as opposed to a glass half full.
• A man who reached the top of his profession, searching for the India of his youth.
• A man who committed his savings in his child’s dream, downsizing due to lack of return on his investment.
• A man who chases youth and relationship as old age draws her cloak around him.
Expectation and reality meet when the travellers, having been subjected to the vagaries of Indian transport, arrive at their destination – a hotel run by a young man who has sold his guests the dream of what the business could be.
The film attacks some of life’s larger questions with humour and pathos, capturing the depths and optimism of the human spirit. Joy and sadness walk side by side as, for different reasons, India gives this motley crew time to reflect, to share their stories, to shine a spotlight on landscapes of the past and signposts to the future.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has a stellar cast. Dev Patel, of Slumdog Millionaire fame, is the young Indian man attempting to make the hotel that was once his father’s gain guests and investment. There is a stellar cast including two actresses who have been awarded the honour Dame of the British Empire (DBE) for their acting work – Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. Tom Wilkinson and Penelope Wilton both have the honour Officer of the British Empire (OBE). Celia Imrie, Bill Nighy and Ronald Pickup are faces the British public know well from their long and distinguished acting careers.
One of joys of watching this film is to see such a strong ensemble cast of actors who have played leading roles. Should you get the chance I would urge you to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - a triumph of British film making.
Should you wish to see the two Dames together in another film that captures the English to perfection try the film Ladies in Lavender, set in 1936 in a Cornish fishing village. Dench and Smith play sisters who discover a young Polish violinist who has been washed ashore on their beach: