If you haven't yet seen 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel', plan on doing so. Not because it is a great movie but for two other - and substantial -reasons.
First, the acting by the principals is of such surpassing skill and beauty that I wanted to see certain scenes over again immediately. Just as, in the middle of a mediocre ballet, Nureyev can leap, and in that few seconds, make the entire evening worthwhile, Tom Wilkinson, a favorite of mine since he was in Separate Lies, is mesmerizing as an retired British jurist who return to India where he grew up.
You know the plot, – an assortment of British retirees come to India for some indeterminate time to make their meager retirement go further and the expected characers are all there, a racist old woman who finds understanding, etc, etc., an older man looking for a last fling, a widow grieving for her husband, funny locals with their own specifc problems, cultre clash, yada, yaddah. etc, etc.
Very predictable. Yet it holds together and each of the several main charcters has their chance in the spotlight and holds it. I didn't care about the plot – and the denouement was downright silly – but, after a bit of a slow start, the acting and the photography kept me riveted.
And then there is the photography. The images. There is something about Asia, the light and the colors that make a richness and a subtlety of color that seems impossible in the colder, more factual West. Beyond the expected beautiful en place images and the novelty of the environment, the characters are photographed so lovingly and so well, not hiding their age-engendered faults but making them beautiful in their own way. As a photographer, I reacted so much to some of the shots that my wife pinched me and told me to keep quiet.
I have not seem a movie that used the place as so important to the film since Larence of Arabia.
Yet, it was a bit painful to see, because it was clear that no matter how bright the future for any of the characters, the future will be, must be, quite short.
I have met a good many older expatriates who go to live out their lives in Asia. Certainly some of them do it for economic reasons but often I have a different impression of why they go. In our own culture, our life and cumulative mistakes and memories and responsibilities drags behind us always. We are tied, perhaps hindered and sometimes even throttled by what has gone before.
Making that break to live somewhere new and foreign is like another birth, renewing for the spirit; one is choosing to live the last 10 or 20 or 30 years as a new and better person, knowing what we have missed, the mistakes we have made and vowing not to repeat them and unafraid of the future because we know it can't hurt any more than the past.
I long to return to Asia and would be happy to spend my last years there - no matter how many.