When we think of an “Australian story” the ones that typically spring to mind are predominantly about the country, bush or the past. So what is a reader to do when they want something that reflects their own modern life in the Western suburbs of Sydney? Thankfully, Peter Polites has answered this in his debut novel, Down The Hume, one that seems like a likely successor to Christos Tsiolkas’ Loaded.

Polites is the associate director of SWEATSHOP, a literary movement based in Western Sydney which is devoted to empowering marginalised communities. Polites was also a co-writer of the Sydney Festival show, Home Country, an epic story about culture and identity that was performed in a Blacktown carpark. When we consider Polites’ previous work it is unsurprising that he also brings his experiences as a young, homosexual man of Greek descent to his debut novel. The book’s main character Bux also has these same character traits, but Bux also loves a violent, abusive drug-enabler and gym-obsessed man named Nice Arms Pete.

Down The Hume is a little like a car speeding at full force along our nation’s famous highway from Sydney to Melbourne. The book is a complex one that negotiates important topics like machismo, hedonism and a deep sense of existential yearning. The text itself is also quite raw and confrontational. The story is told in the first person and you very much get the sense that you are along in the passenger seat for the ride with Bux, come what may.

We follow Bux through addiction to prescription medication, as well as some tender moments where he bonds with his mother (another person who had a “vanishing” and abusive man in her life) and a friendship with an elderly gentleman who he cares for at his nursing home job. Bux is a paranoid and jealous lover who takes to stalking his boyfriend Pete, whom he suspects of cheating.

Each of the chapters of the book are named after places in Sydney and sometimes these moments read like little vignettes or discrete episodes; Bux grapples with the implications and ideas of culture and identity as a man of Greek descent wearing an outfit typically worn by Middle Eastern men. In another moment he has to reconcile his position as a homosexual man with the weight of familial expectations on his head (in one flashback his family had assumed that he’d want to settle down with a nice girl and have a family.)

Down The Hume is a dark noir story. It uses sharp, street-wise language to create a multifaceted tale that reads like urban poetry. Peter Polites is ultimately a refreshing new voice in contemporary literature and his dynamic prose proves that there is so much more to Australian stories than the expected bush gangs, convicts and farms of yore.

Originally published on 13 March 2017 at the following website:

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Ayesha’s Gift is a book that could also be called “Ayesha’s Curse” because it is brimming with sorrow. It’s the fictionalised account of the real-life events that saw Philomena author and former BBC foreign correspondent, Martin Sixsmith assist in investigating the death of a British-Pakistani man. The book is ultimately a rather multi-faceted detective tale where a murder is solved, cultures collide and a kind of quiet respect, empathy and trust is forged between two unlikely main characters.

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Let all Australians rejoice for we have some of the world’s prettiest landmarks in our own backyard. A case in point is Sydney’s historic The Rocks area. The traditional lands of the Gadigal (Cadigal) people of the Eora nation, 2016 embraces this precinct as home to history, art, culture and food, with over 50 cafes, restaurants and bars. We invite you on a journey of discovery to sample a little of what The Rocks has to offer.




This part of Sydney is home to lots of historic buildings and Sydney’s very first road. It was originally named Main Street and later renamed George Street after King George III in 1810. This area has been subject to various regeneration efforts to the shops and buildings, with the work set to continue into the future. It’s a place that has seen its fair share of progress: in the 1970s it was earmarked for redevelopment but was saved thanks to activists and conservationists like Jack Mundey. Today it boasts a vibrant culture and beautiful architecture, in addition to being a food lover’s dream.


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Fine Food is the perfect place to have a casual breakfast or brunch. Inspired by Brooklyn-style cafes, it has proudly been serving local craft beer, wine and coffee since 2004. The coffees are a particular drawcard, with drip coffee, cold brews and single origin espressos on offer. This cosy place is situated next to The Rocks Discovery Museum and offers fragrant brews that any discerning coffee drinker can appreciate.




Another amazing find at The Rocks is a restaurant called Pony, situated in a former bond warehouse. Head chef, Neil Nolan has been a mainstay at this eatery for ten years, and is instrumental in producing an eclectic menu that is cooked in a large open kitchen and over an Argentinean wood fire oven. Their roasted heirloom beets include yellow and traditional beetroot presented in a variety of different ways, including as a crisp as well as pureed and roasted. The perfect complement to the creamy burrata cheese and the sweet, candied hazelnuts.





Pony also has a large communal table on the outdoor deck. Such an environment was the appropriate time to sample some seared kangaroo. What a surprise to discover the gaminess of the lean kangaroo meat was toned down thanks to the addition of crunchy, native pepper berries and tart berries such as raspberry.




This restaurant also offered an exquisite JR signature sirloin with an Argentinian chimichurri sauce. This meat was cooked to perfection and has a nice little char from the wood fire oven. The sauce meanwhile, is based on parsley, onion, garlic and chilli and just made everything pop!




Scarlett Restaurant wins the prize for being the most chameleon-like space in the area. The restaurant is located in the Harbour Rocks Hotel and the building served as Sydney’s first hospital. They have a beautiful garden terrace offering serenity and calm with a view overlooking the historic nurses walk. It’s a great place to sip a Scarlett’s Dirty Mojito, a sparkling concoction of muddled lime and sugar with Stolen spiced rum and topped with soda.






The Rocks is host to a number of different public art pieces including one dedicated to Mundey, and a view of Brown Bear Lane (later Little Essex Street in 1901.) There is also a cute little dog sculpture dedicated to Biggles, a deceased schnauzer dog and former friend of The Rocks. It is these those iconic treasures along with a sandstone rich environment still boasting a supply of old post and telephone boxes, which gives this place its unique, old-world charm.




On Fridays The Rocks also plays host to a Foodie market from 9am – 3pm. The stalls include chocolates and other artisan products as well as street food-style offerings. Danieli BBQ Skewers sell a number of delicious skewers including Moroccan lamb, haloumi, prawns and peri-peri chicken, to name a few.




Pei Modern is a contemporary restaurant located in the five-star Four Seasons Hotel and is headed up by leading Australian chef Mark Best. The team have also welcomed a recent addition to their troupes in award-winning pastry chef, Lauren Eldridge. She has revamped their dessert menu while also keeping true to Pei Modern’s overall vision of exploring unconventional food pairings. Eldridge is not a sweet tooth herself, opting to craft desserts that she and others like her can enjoy, including desserts that are not too rich or sugary.


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Eldridge creates her own wildflower honeycomb, served with a sweet, cultured cream… like the world’s most exquisite crunchy bar! The salted liquorice cake and molasses ice-cream, in an ice-cream hinting of coffee notes. The Rocks is no stranger to chocoholics with their yearly Smooth Chocolate Festival. Pei Modern caters beautifully here with their bitter chocolate tart and cumquat jam.




The Rocks is a place blessed in terms of its rich history and plentiful supply of places to eat, drink and relax. It is certainly fun to don the tourist cap and step back in time, while sampling some of Sydney’s finest and freshest contemporary Australian cuisine. The Rocks is ultimately a place where you can enjoy and celebrate the past, present and future, as you walk away with a full belly and a warm heart.




Originally published in October at the following website:

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Wine Island is an annual boutique wine festival which is set on Clark Island, in the picturesque Sydney Harbour. The four-day event allows patrons to learn about and experience different wines and foods, in a luxurious island setting. It sounds like a wonderful holiday idea except you may not even need to leave “home” and you can participate and learn a lot thanks to some wonderful tastings and masterclasses. The Australia Times Gourmet sat down for a chat with Kristen Francis, the founder and director of Wine Island to learn more about this exciting event.


  1. Can you briefly introduce yourself and describe your involvement in Wine Island?


Aloha!  I’m Kristen Francis, the founder and director of Wine Island.


  1. How long have you been involved with Wine Island? How did you come to be involved?


I came up with the idea a few years ago when I noticed that we had some beautiful and relatively untouched islands on our back doorstep.  At the time I didn’t think of how difficult producing an event on an island would be!


  1. Italy has around 500 different grape varieties and it looks like Wine Island may have a focus on Italian varieties. What is your favourite variety and why?


My go-to wine is Riesling. It reminds me of my grandfather, however it tastes a lot more refined these days!

Lately though, I’ve been delving into a lot of prosecco, “researching” our King Valley winemakers who will be showcasing this variety on the island at King Valley Prosecco Road.


  1. What are you most looking forward to at Wine Island? Why?


I always like to know a bit more about the story behind the wine, so I’m really looking forward to chatting to the island winemakers and also taking part in some of the masterclasses.  We’re introducing a silent disco to educate people on music and wine matching along with a Dessert Island class where stickies will take centre stage, something I’m sure they’re not used to.


  1. Wine Island takes place at Clark Island. Why was this location chosen?


It’s such a beautiful little island and no one really knows it exists.  In fact, Sydney has a lot of islands that most of us are unaware of.  I just wanted to create a little holiday in our backyard and show off Sydney to both locals and tourists.


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  1. Wine Island looks set to feature a number of masterclasses. Can you tell us more about this? Do you have one in particular that you’re looking forward to?


We’ve expanded our masterclasses this year as they were a big hit in 2015.  Part ofWine Island’s philosophy is unique wines in a unique location so we will be featuring all the tongue-twisting grape varieties that are up and coming.  There’ll be a Bubbles Off! which will feature sparkling and prosecco.  We also like to match-make so there’ll be a cheese and wine masterclass along with our silent disco drops, which is all about music and wine matching, which I’m interested in exploring a lot further as they’re two of my favourite things.


  1. Why do you think people should attend Wine Island?


Wine Island is a must-visit destination for anyone who loves wine, relaxing, great company and something ‘oh so Sydney’ in equal measure. It’s about combining our love affair with this beautiful city with quirky yet laid-back experiences with wine, food and culture. This is the place where you can feel like you’re leaving the city while entering the very heart of it.


  1. In your opinion, what makes a good wine? What things make good pairings with wine?


Wine is very subjective. So for me, I really enjoy an old smoky style of cab sav.  Then for a perfect pairing it’d have to be a good tawny port with blue cheese.


  1. Can you tell us about what kinds of food will be available at Wine Island? Why were these particular foods chosen?


We have a high-end BBQ featuring kingfish, maple-glazed pork and pepperberry corn paired up with vermouth by Banksii Vermouth Bar & Bistro (opening in Oct at Barangaroo). This will also feature 4 -5 of Australia’s up-and-coming vermouth brands which is one of those old-school wines we like to re-introduce and educate visitors on.


Pairing up with the King Valley Prosecco Road winemakers, who will also be showcasing Italian varieties, will be Italian food hut Puntino / A.P.E. featuring bowls of mussels, pasta wheels, etc.


Then Chur Burger will be teaming up with GAGE Roads Brewing Co. from Fremantle to introduce a beer infused burger, and to finish off the complementary food offerings, we have Hunter Valley Cheese Factory platters and roaming oyster shuckers so you needn’t lift a finger.


  1. Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers of The Australia Times Gourmet magazine about Wine Island Sydney or wine in general?


Not only are we unique by location, but we also like to show off unique wines for a further point of difference.  Winemakers are experimental at heart and wine drinkers like to try different grape varieties and learn more about the process, but in a fun and relaxing environment which is exactly what Wine Island offers.  There is nothing else like it in Sydney, or the world for that matter!

The other thing that makes Wine Island special, is it’s a small island so only limited capacity which give each guest a first class experience.  No crowds here, just you and a few hundred of your closest friends.




Wine Island takes place at Clark Island, Sydney Harbour from: Thursday 10 November to Sunday 13 November 2016 inclusive. For more information and tickets please visit:


Originally published in October at the following website:

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Penelope Keith’s Hidden Villages Series 2 picks up were the first one left off. It’s another look at some places that are off the beaten track, are quintessentially British, full of eccentrics and befitting the term “villages.” The former star of To the Manor Born and The Good Life delivers another bright and delightful program about a topic that is clearly rather close to her heart. This is particularly so when you consider that she has been living in a village herself for almost 40 years.

This time around Keith produces four episodes that focus on Devon and Cornwall; Cumbria and The Lake District; Royal Deeside; and East Sussex and Kent. In episode one Keith visits a number of coastal cities and looks at how fishing and mining played a role in village life. She also sees some troyboats race, catches the Polruan ferry and attends Oak Apple Day. Keith is a keen gardener so it’s fitting that she also has a turn around some large private gardens where Camelia and rhododendrons were first introduced and where large plantations of Darjeeling tea are now being grown.

The picturesque, Lake District is the setting for episode two and it’s here that we learn that these farmlands were the inspiration and home of children’s author, Beatrix Potter. The series focuses on a number of literary references (and not just the excerpts that Keith has highlighted from her 1932 travel book, the Batsford Guide.) Keith also describes Wordsworth’s Grasmere and East Sussex is where you will find Batemans, the former home of The Jungle Book’s author, Rudyard Kipling.

This series contains some exquisite shots of green, British landscapes. At the Royal Deeside, the audience is also treated to views of Balmoral Castle and acres of royal land that is used to grow vegetables and plants. This neighbourhood (and Braemar specifically) is also where the Highland Games are held. These are complete with dancers, bagpipe players and the hammer toss. The final episode includes a visit to Robertsbridge, the home of the cricket bat as well as trips along a steam train and a glimpse at the Beresford Hotel or one where The Beatles, Petula Clark and other famous people were once guests.

The second series of Hidden Villages is certainly not essential viewing. It’s another gentle travelogue of rural England and the countryside as well as its coverage of the secrets and traditions of those places. This series looks absolutely gorgeous and Penelope Keith has a personality and presenting style to match. Her enthusiasm and optimism is infectious and the series will make just about anyone want to become a member of the village green preservation society.

Originally published on 3 October 2016 at the following website:

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From Burning Bright Productions JOANNA LUMLEY'S TRAN-SIBERIAN EXPRESS ADVENTURE Sunday 12th July 2015 on ITV Pictured: Joanna Lumley in Mongolia in front of the Trans -Siberian Express train Joanna Lumley starts her 6,400 mile train journey to Moscow in Hong Kong which she last visited when she was four. She hasnÕt visited Moscow since 1966 when she was there as a model at the height of the Cold War. The first episode sees her start on the peak above Hong Kong harbour, jump on the underground to Shehzing where she catches the bullet train to Beijing. In Beijing, she discovers that they sell more Rolls Royces there than anywhere else in the world. She visits a bizarre restaurant dedicated to Chairman Mao and encounters an old lady who knew the last EmperorÕs favourite concubine. In Beijing she joins the TransÐSiberian Railroad, her first stop in Datong where she visits a wild stretch of the Great Wall. From there it is an overnight train to Mongolia where she passes through the Gobi desert and visits a Mongolian shaman. © Burning Bright For further information please contact Peter Gray 0207 157 3046 This photograph is © ITV and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme JOANNA LUMLEY'S TRAN-SIBERIAN EXPRESS ADVENTURE or ITV. Once made available by the ITV Picture Desk, this photograph can be reproduced once only up until the Transmission date and no reproduction fee will be charged. Any subsequent usage may incur a fee. This photograph must not be syndicated to any other publication or website, or permanently archived, without the express written permission of ITV Picture Desk. Full Terms and conditions are available on the website


Joanna Lumley’s travel programs are like the TV equivalent of listening to some smooth, easy-listening music. It’s not that she herself takes it easy; it’s just that she delivers her shows with such a graceful and gentle calm. This very British demeanour makes for a very pleasant holiday indeed, sweetie darling.

This series is the latest one from the former model turned actress and activist. Lumley has previously travelled to Greece, The Nile and taken in the Northern Lights. Her latest program is about the most epic rail journey one can do. It’s a 6000 mile (approx. 9600 km) journey that takes in Hong Kong, China, Mongolia and Russia. It’s also a very personal story for Lumley, because she lived in Hong Kong for a few years as a child and in 1966 she did a modelling shoot in Russia (whilst the country was in the midst of the Cold War).

Lumley is perhaps best known for playing Patsy Stone on the TV show and soon-to-be-film, Absolutely Fabulous. The two presentations couldn’t be any more different. On her Trans-Siberian Adventure Lumley is very courteous, luminous and British. The show also has an old-fashioned and classy tone which means it wouldn’t feel out of step when shown alongside Antiques Roadshow.

In this documentary, Lumley does manage to get off the beaten track. She visits a Chairman Mao-themed restaurant in China, consults with shamans and horse-milking nomads in Mongolia (a country that also boasts a giant statue of Genghis Khan), sees some throat singers, watches some young Russians recreating Jane Austen-like balls complete with period costume and finishes it off by drinking lots of vodka in Putin’s Russia. Lumley is an eloquent host who is very enthusiastic about most of the things she sees. It’s nice to watch someone who is so positive but she does tend to declare that a lot of things are “Extraordinary” and this could annoy some viewers after a while.

This three-part journey of 6000 miles started with a single step onto a train and it’s fair to say it’s a rather fun one. This travelogue is often rich with details and has a kind of quiet and subtle charm to it all. In the end it’s like travelling with your favourite, older aunt who is passionate about panoramas, people and culture. Joanna Lumley’s Trans-Siberian Adventure is very similar to enjoying an English breakfast tea while sitting on your comfortable chaise lounge in the warmth. It’s all a kind of quiet contentment.


Originally published on 11 December 2015 at the following website:

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Fusion TIFF File

Who Do You Think You Are? is such a personal TV series you almost feel like you’re sitting in someone’s lounge room having a cuppa. The Australian edition is modelled on the original one from the U.K. Both shows see prominent personalities retracing aspects of their family tree/history. It’s ultimately a fascinating program and in Australia’s case it can occasionally be a multicultural one.

The program is now in its seventh series and once again you see celebrities playing detectives to the lives of themselves and their ancestors. There are stories about challenges and struggles and these form a rich tapestry illuminating and celebrating identity and culture. It’s also the kind of program that can make you laugh and cry in equal measure.

The first episode of the seventh series stars the actor Geoffrey Rush who is in for a few surprises. He’d previously figured his family were all a bunch of farmers but in reality his German ancestors were part of a long dynasty of musicians. Toni Collette has easily one of the most complicated family histories out of the lot. Her grandma died shortly after giving birth to her mother’s sister, which meant her grandfather would abandon his children. Then there’s her paternal grandfather whose identity remains unknown.

This series is very entertaining and educational. Dawn Fraser learns she had a South American freedom fighter in her family while TV chef Luke Nguyen discovers there are other refugees among his ancestors (and not just his immediate family). Ray Martin gets back to his Aboriginal roots while Peter Rowsthorn (Kath & Kim) learns about the convicts in his family’s past. Greig Pickhaver (HG Nelson) and actor David Wenham can look with pride at their ancestor’s roles in the Australian Defence Force and in the World Wars.

Who Do You Think You Are? is one intimate program that is a fascinating watch and leap through the history books. The stories are universal and relatable as they show how people overcame various trials and tribulations in order to succeed. In all, this is one revealing and incredible observational documentary that holds up a mirror for every day Australians to gaze upon and celebrate in all its glory.

Originally published on 24 November 2015 at the following website:

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We’ve already had an American in Paris but the film Samba could be dubbed, “an Illegal Senegalese Immigrant in France”. This is an adaption of a novel by Delphine Coulin that has absolutely nothing to do with dancing. Instead, this is a gentle drama and romantic comedy about immigration, refugees, culture, connections and belonging. In short, it’s something that could have been quite deep and meaningful in the current political climate but in reality it fails to hit all of the right notes.

The movie is by the directorial team, Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano who double as script-writers along with Delphine and Muriel Coulin. The directors are also the ones who created the unlikely hit film, The Intouchables a few years ago and here they once again cast Omar Sy in a lead role. In this instance Sy plays Samba, an illegal but determined and conscientious immigrant from Senegal who has toiled away for the past ten years working in menial jobs just so he can send money home to his mother and family.

There are some bureaucratic issues that result in Samba being first imprisoned in a detention centre and then facing deportation. Along the way he meets Alice (the gorgeous, Charlotte Gainsbourg) who is donating her time to refugees and immigrants that are caught up by the French system. Alice is an anxious and neurotic career-woman and during her first meeting with Samba, she bonds with him over sleeping pills and cereal bars. It’s all rather curious conversation but a friendship does slowly develop.

There are some other characters in Samba’s life, including Jonas (Issaka Sawadogo) a man he befriends whilst in detention as well as Wilson (the cheeky, Tahar Rahim) who is pretending to be a Brazilian immigrant. The latter is a very colourful addition and he is absolutely hilarious in a scene with Sy where they recreate a Diet Coke ad from a few years ago. Izïa Higelin plays Manu or Alice’s mentor and colleague who tries to advise the latter not to get so emotionally involved in her work.

Samba’s biggest problems are its slow execution and its uneven tone. The story starts with a big dance scene that is not unlike something by Baz Luhrmann before it then spends a lot of time being subtle and confused as to whether it will stay rooted in drama and make a bold, political statement or whether it wants to be a breezy, rom-com. It’s a shame because the characters themselves are well-formed and complex enough and the story seems warm and well-intentioned. It means that had there been some improvements and adjustments, this good film could have been excellent.

Samba is an engaging if overlong film that feels quite honest and real. The viewers will be entertained and enthralled by the fine work by the lead actors (especially Gainsbourg and Sy who share some very obvious chemistry). Samba is a film where the individuals involved have created a great under-dog character that is likeable and charismatic enough so that the viewer actually wants to root for and empathise with him. It’s just a shame that some problems with the film’s execution leave Samba feeling a tad alien.

Originally published on 3 October 2015 at the following website:

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Won’t somebody think of the children? This may be Helen Lovejoy’s catchphrase from The Simpsons but it could also be used to sum up the documentary,InRealLife. The film could have asked a series of timely and important questions about the Internet but instead it feels like heavy-handed and judgemental scare-mongering.

The film is written and directed by Beeban Kidron who is best known for her work in Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason. She is also no stranger to directing documentaries and making films about important social issues. InInRealLife she questions what affect the internet is having on young and vulnerable minds. She says she was prompted to make the film after seeing so many teens being constantly connected to electronic devices but really, in statements like this she comes across sounding like a prejudiced luddite.

Kidron interviews some English teenagers who are candid in what they reveal. One might also argue that they seem like more extreme cases, like a teenager who put herself in a situation where she was gang-raped in order to save the phone she had previously prostituted herself in order to get. There are also two 15 year old guys who are porn addicts that have difficulty maintaining real-life relationships (but at least they are perceptive enough to offer some interesting insights into this). There’s also a 19-year old who was kicked out of Oxford because he didn’t do his coursework after spending hours gaming (but this procrastination may have had nothing to do with technology).

InRealLife also tackles the issues of data privacy, storage and cyberbullying. Kidron also talks to the bereaved parents of a boy who committed suicide because of this. Among these personal stories, Kidron also presents interviews with academics and computer experts including Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Walesand Julian Assange of WikiLeaks fame. These add an air of credibility to the documentary, but the Internet is such a vast and complex subject that in some cases the points they made are hardly new or revelatory. In other situations, too many points are tackled either at once or in quick succession, meaning the execution feels hollow as things barely scratch beyond the surface.

The documentary also features a muddled interlude with some YouTube stars including a pointless discussion with Tobuscus (Toby Joe Turner) . Some video montages of YouTube clips featuring some things that were previously viral hits also seem at odds with the rest of the story. At other points in the film, Kidron also uses shots of blinking servers and large clumps of cabling in stark and cold computer rooms and in tunnels below the ground and these are coupled with dark and ominous industrial sounds. This music is overbearing and this footage is used repeatedly and only adds to the finger-pointing feel of this conservative and patronising film.

InRealLife looked like it had an agenda from the outset and that was to shock people with its content and the factoids that are sprinkled throughout. But overall it feels in cohesive and like information overload with data that seems skewed towards the more negative aspects of the Internet. The film lacks focus and feels unbalanced and incomplete (very few positive views of the Internet are expressed and representatives from major technology firms declined to be interviewed). Ultimately, InRealLife may pose some valid and worthwhile questions about how the Web affects our society and culture, but if fails to provide a complete or informative insight into such a multi-faceted, important and complicated subject.


Originally published on 17 September 2014 at the following website:

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The Hundred-Foot Journey is the latest addition to the recent surge of food-related films (see: The Chef, The Trip To Italy, Julie & Julia, etc). This new film is a feel-good one which will no doubt curry favour with many members of the audience. But despite being a pleasant trip, the overall meal could use some extra seasoning in order to create a bigger impact.

The movie is produced by Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey and Juliet Blake and is an adaption of a book by Richard C. Morais. It is directed by Lasse Hallström and stars Helen Mirren (The Queen) and Bollywood stalwart, Om Puri. This group are undoubtedly an excellent pedigree but they manage to make a good, not a great film.

The story follows the Kadam family who are displaced from their native India and their journey to the South of France via England. Their car breaks down in a quaint and small, provincial town (and elements of the plot and setting actually mirror director, Lasse Hallström’s previous film, Chocolat). This leads the family’s stubborn patriarch, Papa (Om Puri) to decide that they’ll stay and open up a restaurant, the Maison Mumbai in an old, rundown building.

Upon opening, what follows is a cultural clash and battle with the other local establishment. Helen Mirren plays Madame Mallory, a prickly and snooty Frenchwoman who owns the elegant, Michelin-starred, Le Saule Pleureur. It’s a classical French restaurant a mere hundred feet away from where our new favourite family wants to open their vibrant, colourful, Bollywood-infused eatery.

The movie is a tad too long and the relationships are all a little too glossy and polished. The two stubborn restaurant owners go from all-out war- i.e. butting heads, sabotaging each others’ restaurants and complaining to the mayor, to friends within a couple of scenes. The story also attempts to be too many things at once, showing a cultural clash, a foodie story, some family fun, a triumph of the underdog like Slumdog Millionaire and a romance. The latter comes courtesy of Papa’s son, the family cook, Hassan (Manish Dayal) and his friendship and subsequent romance with Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon (Yves Saint Laurent)) who is employed as a sous chef at Le Saule Pleureur.

The Hundred-Foot Journey is a light drama full of picturesque scenery, tantalising food shots and good performances by the actors. But a little added drama would’ve worked wonders and saved it all from being too safe. As it stands the film is uncomplicated yet uplifting and shows promise. It is also comforting enough overall, but while it may satiate some people’s appetite for drama, food, romance and comedy, others may be left wanting a little more.


Originally published on 14 August 2014 at the following website:


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