The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: "Nothing Here Has Worked Out Quite As Expected"

Director: John Madden
Writer:    Ol Parker
Starring: Judi Dench
               Bill Nighy
               Tom Wilkinson
               Maggie Smith
               Penelope Wilton
               Ronald Pickup
               Celia Imrie
               Dev Patel
               Tena Desae
Rating:    *****

Home Release: TODAY - 25/06/12

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a movie with a message, a simple message but an extremely poignant one at the same time; you are never too old to change. Directed by the extremely versatile John Madden (Shakespeare in Love, The Debt), it is a simple yet emotive film that focuses on the elder generation; as a group of 7, ranging from 60+, travel to India to spend their final years at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

The resort that they are travelling to is an establishment for retirees in India managed by the chipper yet dim Sonny (Patel). He is "outsourcing old age", offering a glamorous escape for the group, something that's much more appealing than the grey British skies to those in their later years. Unfortunately, when the group eventually arrive it soon become apparent that the hotel has seen better days and the new guests feel like they've been sold a lie. However, as the time goes by, most of the group soon fall in love with Sonny's charm and the dazzling and vibrant Indian culture that surrounds them, bringing them together to save the hotel and to live the rest of their lives peacefully. 

(L-R) Maggie Smith, Ronald Pickup, Bill Nighy,
Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie, Judi Dench &
Tom Wilkinson
Recently-widowed Evelyn (Dench) is the audience's eyes and ears, narrating the story as she tries to clear her deceased husband's debts and starts anew at the Marigold. She's joined by stubborn and racist Muriel (Smith), who is in India for a money-saving hip replacement; a couple in crisis Douglas (Nighy) and Jean (Wilton); Graham (Wilkinson), a man looking for something he once lost in India; and a happy-go-lucky pair of singletons looking for love, Norman (Pickup) and Madge (Imrie).

The movie is a gently paced one that grows on you with every passing moment. It's sweet, charming, emotionally engaging and has outstanding performances from its terrific cast. Wilkinson's story is probably the most touching of the lot. His character Graham is a gay man whose relationship with his Indian friend almost 40 years earlier brought shame on the latter's family. Graham has spent most of his life feeling terribly guilty for this, so has returned in search of forgiveness; so it's his journey that helps the others bring their lives into a clearer perspective.

The most extreme transformation (and some may think unrealistic) is Muriel's; who goes from a hard-nosed, wheelchair-bound bigot, to a smiling old lady who is the first to help out the crumbling hotel at the very end. Luckily Smith's delicate performance as Muriel, particularly in a scene where she explains how her former employers suddenly found no use for her, is more than enough to make the character believable and someone you want to route for, despite how rude and ignorant she starts off as..

Dev Patel
At the centre of the entire plot is the marvellous Dench, who is so often a figure of strength and authority, yet here she's lost in the foreign and fast-paced life of India and must find a job to make ends meet. As Evelyn develops a warm friendship with Douglas (Nighy), who is so often being put down by his bitter wife, things start to fall in place for Evelyn and her future looks bright again.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel may have it's light, airy moments, but it crucially has something to say about ageing and how we treat the elderly. The film is filled with beautifully written characters who all have something to give; but sadly it is only when they are moved to a new country and culture that they find their place and feel they can contribute to their community..

To put it bluntly, if you want to watch a wonderfully moving and terrifically witty film, starring just some of the best British talent we can offer, then The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is most certainly a film you need in your home collection; just be prepared to cry.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - Trailer