This is a gentle comedy drama about the expansion plans of an Indian hotel owner, Sonny (Dev Patel) and his British partner Mrs Donnelly (Maggie Smith). The hotel is home to ex pat elderly Brits, played with vim and vigor by the classy cast (Judy Dench, Diana Hardcastle, Celia Imrie, Bill Nighy and Ronald Pickup).
The potential US investors in the expansion warn that they will send someone out to check the operation of the existing hotel. So, the arrival of two new guests into the normally quite and settled hotel environment – Richard Gere & Tamsin Greig – inevitably sets off a chain of events. At the same time as this is happening, Sonny is about to get married.
The film covers, with varying degrees of seriousness and reflection, growing old, love, loyalty, and life. There are moments when it teeters on the edge of sickly sentimentality, but recovers just in time, rescued by a smart line, a gentle laugh, and a fresh push in a new direction. However, there are also some scenes that are straight up, serious, and thoughtful. That may be why, occasionally, the film drags. It’s not material, and it does not spoil the enjoyment, but it’s not a smooth, uninterrupted journey. In other words, not a master work, but a nice film with an uplifting message.
There are only a few instances when I was taken aback by the beauty of the scenery. This may have been a deliberate decision, for fear the wonders of the east may have outshone the acting. That would not have happened, as while the direction very occasionally stutters, the performances – across the board – are near perfect. In other words, it’s not only the stars who deliver. The less well known Indian actors are damn good, and Sonny’s fiancee (Tina Desai) deserves a meatier role.
This is not a film I would have chosen to see, but I am glad I did. I found it to be good old fashioned, crafted, intelligent, entertainment.