On Saturday I went to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I was one of only three people in the cinema outside the age bracket the film was probably meant to target. If you are looking for action or adventure then perhaps this is not the movie for you. However, my age didn’t mean I couldn’t relate to the story. So, if you have been avoiding going because you think the themes or story is too old for you then think again. If anything the points surrounding retirement and the steps one might have to take to have an enjoyable or survivable old age are in fact more striking for us younger folk than even those currently of retirement age. It is likely to get worse as time goes on and I cannot say I am looking forward to being in any of the situations the characters find themselves encountering at the beginning of the film.
From the few reviews I read, I got the impression the story centred around the elderly, their plight to find cheep living conditions to suit their meagre retirement funds and learning to cope in a very different set of circumstances from whence they came. To me this is not the true value of the story but I can very much sympathise with these equally valid aspects.
Two things stood out for me more than any others. The first was the use of the word “change”. It comes up repeatedly in the film and most of the characters go through many changes or adaptations in order to survive in their new and unfamiliar world. That is not only the unfamiliar world of India but also the unfamiliar world of retirement, bereavement, loneliness, truth and so on. Change is inevitable, nothing stands still but not everyone opens their arms willingly to embrace it despite knowing it will come. The point, we must learn to adapt otherwise we will not thrive. For those who do adapt, there may be bad times but with any luck the positives will come with time and patience.
The second thing that stood out and the most important was the implied word “value”. At the heart of the film for me stood the time old belief, one needs to feel valued as a human being. Everyone needs value in order to thrive. The sense of value depends on the individual. It can come in the form of one’s ability to help, love others etc., or to feel worthy of that help, love etc. Age is no barrier to this necessity. From the youngest to the oldest of us it is an essential need.
At the beginning of the movie not one of the hotel’s inhabitants, including the very young manger, feels that sense of worth or value, not even within themselves. As such none of them are thriving and are as dilapidated in soul and spirit as the physical presence of the hotel itself. Nothing works like it should whether it be a dodgy hip or the useless telephones in the hotel.
For some there is a deliberate attempt to search out value. For others it comes more by chance or is thrust upon them. In the end, home truths come to light and for some hard choices have to be made. Not everyone is granted the warm and fuzzys. Most however, learn to adapt. With it the seeds of worth/value glimmer and both the hotel and its inhabitants begin to take on a new light.
I give it a 8/10.