Age cannot wither

This is my review of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (DVD + Digital Copy).

I would be interested to know whether you need to be over (or close to) retirement age to relate to this film, or even to opt to see it in the first place.

The plot revolves round seven rather different characters who have in common the facts that they are (with one exception) middle class, retired, mostly lonely and/or hard up. An inexpensive hotel located in the exotic Indian city of Jaipur and designed for long-term stay by the elderly attracts them as a possible solution to their problems.

The hotel, run by a charming dreamer (played by Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaire fame) is predictably shambolic, a partially ruined former palace of stunning beauty, with picturesque neglected gardens from which it is moving to watch a pure white stork as it flaps improbably, as if on the point of sinking, up into the blue.

Some members of the group adapt readily to the colourful bustle and intriguing history of India – others cannot wait to return to England. Graham, the high court judge who lived in India in his youth, harbours a secret which is gradually revealed.

Although I feared from trailers that the film would merely be a chance for seven famous actors – including Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy and Tom Wilkinson, to ham it up in a visually striking location in north India, thereby boosting its tourist trade, I was relieved to find that they were given quite subtly developed roles which give scope for their skills.

There are some implausible aspects to the plot e.g. how could Bill Nighy and his self-absorbed wife be reduced to poverty by the loss of his civil service pension from unwise investment when it is likely to be paid regularly on a final salary basis? Yet overall, the story has a bittersweet quality which leaves you guessing to the very end as to whether it will end happily in general. In addition to continually amusing scenes, we see not only the vibrancy of India (perhaps the poverty is underplayed) but also hints of the new development in the slick call centre employing Indian graduates, and the concrete and glass blocks emerging on the sites of former slums and dusty makeshift cricket pitches.

This is a lightweight film, but well-made without being too cloying and sentimental.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 Stars

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