REVIEW BY RUBY CHINGU
May I begin the review with the poignant dialogues by the character Evelyn, said at the end of the film:
“The only real failure is the failure to try. And the measure of success is how we cope with disappointment. As we always must. We came here and we tried, all of us in our different ways. Can we be blamed for feeling that we are too old to change? Too scared of disappointment to start it all again?
We get up in the morning. We do our best. Nothing else matters.”
I am an emotional being. I am over-dramatic. I over-think and any unhappiness that has befallen my way has been deemed as a rightful symptom of depression.
Then came films such as this to make me feel better, always, like there is so much more to life than just sitting up and whining about being trapped within our own circumstances.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel tells the story about 7 elderly British citizens who decided to spend their retirement years in a city called Jaipur in India. Each from different walks of life, they settled down in a less-than-perfect almost-crumbling retirement hotel. The characters encountered challenges as they tried to make themselves comfortable and hopefully, adapt to the country of India, filled with its colourful cultures, noisy streets and crowded, just crowded alleys and markets.
From clockwise: We have the kind husband Douglas aka Mr Ainslie, the bitter retired housekeeper Mrs Donnelly, the hedonistic Norman, on the motorbike are Sonny (the hotel’s young manager) and Sunaina, his girlfriend, then Marge, who was on the lookout for a new rich husband, the whiny Mrs Ainslie, the humble former judge Mr Dashwood and last but not least, the recently-widowed Evelyn.
I love these ‘aftermath’ films. The aftermath to their younger years – they had achieved what they had wanted to. Now, how shall they spend the years leading to the end of their lives? But who can actually say that the end is to come? What if the story is a beginning to something? This is what this film teaches us – that life and the joy to live can be revived in the most extraordinary manner. What more so in a country away from the home you have ever known, with new people, new places and a new culture altogether.
My favourite character here is Mr Graham Dashwood, whose decision to return to India after retiring from the judicial service came quite abruptly. Even though he was the obviously most successful one of the crowd, he was a humble soft-spoken man. However, beneath that personality was a sad yearning to see the long lost love of his life, an Indian man who used to work for his family household when he was a teenager living in India. It had been forty years or so since he had moved to Britain and last saw his lover. Nevertheless, he never really stopped loving him and when his heart told him to retire and go to India to look for him, possibly ask for his forgiveness for abandoning him, he did. There was that calmness about him as he strolled around the city of Jaipur and his familiarity with the place – being the only one who was in harmony with Indian culture – was wonderful to see.
My second favourite character is Evelyn, a housewife who had just lost her husband, brilliantly portrayed by Judi Dench. Prior to the move to India, Evelyn had been a devoted wife, trusting her life decisions to her late husband. Only after he had passed away that she realized he had used up all of their savings and incurred debts, thus forcing her to sell her house in Britain, leaving her, in the end, with almost nothing. It is so exciting to see her, quite innocent and naive, as she faced the challenges to be independent – not in her home country but in a country she had never visited before. Knowing that her savings were not enough to pay for her monthly bills, she got herself a job in a call centre near the hotel as an advisor to the telephone operators. I kind of wished for a love live between Evelyn and Mr Dashwood at the beginning before I found out that the latter was gay. However, Evelyn did get a romantic story-arc with another character, our kind-hearted Mr Ainslie, played by Bill Nighy.
The characters’ interaction with their new surroundings are very funny. They are polite, good people. However, they are so used to the way things are at the place where they came from. Compared to Britain, India is different. Or compare any other two countries for that matter. We will never feel as secure as we are at our home country. However, that does not mean settling down in a new one is a bad thing. Changes are certainly not a bad thing, especially if they are for the better. We may falter and make mistakes. The important part is that we allow ourselves to try something new and waste no opportunity in living our lives, like what the characters in this film did.
The story may not be adventurous or thrilling However, I can confidently say that it is a terribly exciting one. The story is unpredictable for me because rarely do I get an insight of an elderly people’s minds. I do not know how they think (and other people as well, I confess). They oozed certain aura of confidences because they have lived their lives and they have all the experiences that we, young people, are lacking. However, that does not mean that life would stop surprising them with unpredictable occurrences, sad tidings and unexpected happiness.
Always, people say that they are afraid to grow old. Even me, in my personal opinion, worry about what is to happen when I reach that stage. Nevertheless, films like this give me a little bit of hope. That with good health and a positive mind, you can conquer anything, rise up, explore and learn new stuffs no matter what age you are.