The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

1. When seven retired UK residents arrive at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful they get (as we might expect) more than they expected.  They are all escaping from trouble, boredom, family or money problems. Looking for something better, or at least different. And different it is. India is a country of colour, noise, cramped public transport, and the eternally optimistic Sunny, proprietor of the not-really-as-exotic-as-advertised Marigold Hotel. On their first evening he welcomes them with a special welcome British roast… goat curry, and a wonderfully optimistic speech about how ‘You have all heard the chimes of midnight, and long in tooth have you become. Who knows how many days you have left?’

For a short clip of this scene, entitled ‘Norman Nods Off’, have a look at IMDB here –

The Bible is honest and upfront about our time on earth. The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes is particularly blunt. ‘Generations come and go, but nothing really changes.’ He says. ‘The sun rises and falls and hurries round to rise again.’  And ‘No matter how long you are alive, you’ll be dead a lot longer.’

When we are young we feel to some extent bullet-proof. We are ready to take on the world. Is this your attitude at the moment, or are you leaning more towards the generation in the Marigold Hotel? How do you view your situation at the moment?


2. The move to India brings on huge changes for the seven. Aside from the physical difficulties, and they are considerable – cockroaches, diet, language, way of life – they each face their own personal changes. Muriel has come for a hip operation. Graham to face up to a relationship he lost. Douglas and Jean’s marriage, already fractured, begins to showing severe cracks. Change of any kind can bring pressure, indeed sometimes it can begin due to pressure.

It’s easy to come up with the platitudes about seizing the day and ‘a change is as a good as a rest’ – but how do we deal with changes in our lives. Are you facing some now? Are you at any kind of crossroads where you must choose? Would you ever have the courage, or indeed the desire, to make a big change in your life?


3. One of the most shocking lines in the film comes early on, when Muriel refuses to be seen by a non-white doctor in the UK. When she gets to India and is about to have her operation she asks for a marker pen, so she can mark the right hip for the doctors to make sure they don’t operate on the wrong one. For her the cultural changes in the UK are as big as the cultural changes of moving to India. She is frightened and bewildered, antagonistic about it all.  When I saw this movie in our local cinema the audience was very much of Muriel’s generation, and they laughed at some of her opening lines, which made  me wonder about how they were identifying with her character. Was there a certain relief in her giving voice to fears that they have felt about the changes in our culture? This isn’t the end of the story for Muriel, her approach to others changes dramatically in this film.

For Evelyn one of the difficulties of life is attempting to sort out her internet, and the call centre in India does not seem helpful or sympathetic. She is bewildered and confused by terminology she just does not understand, yet the person on the line seems uncaring. Life is always changing, to some degree it has never stayed the same, the one constant thing is change.

How do you feel about these things? Do you welcome the changes in our culture and society? Most of us will identify with the call centre and helplines experiences, and the frustration of communication, have you been there and done that? What colour’s the t-shirt?


4. The ever optimistic Sunny has a quote. ‘Everything will be all right in the end, so if it’s not all right, then it’s not the end.’ I like this a lot. And in some ways it sums up the situation we live with now. When Jesus arrived on earth he brought the kingdom of God to people. Lives were changed, world-views adjusted, the lost and broken found new hope. Good changes had begun. Yet, everything was and is still not all right. To have hope is to believe that one day it will come right. But to face our broken world reminds us that ‘it is not all right, so it is not the end.’ Jesus himself said, ‘In this world you will have trouble, but be encouraged, I have overcome the world.’

What does that mean for us? What does it mean from day to day to be people of hope, and people of Jesus’s kingdom, when we still live with the troubles? Living in the age of it not yet being all right, because it’s not yet the end. Sometimes it’s almost too painful to have hope, because we have been disappointed in life too much. And how do you imagine the end to be? That in itself can be frightening, and the Bible only gives us glimpses. Have a look at Isaiah chapter 25 verses 6 to 8, then read the verses in revelation chapter 21 verses 1-4. Glimpses and visions of a new world, a new way of life.


5. At one point in the movie Sunny explains the philosophy behind his hotel for the elderly and beautiful by saying – ‘We’re outsourcing old age  as many countries don’t like old people.’ It is a wry and highly insightful comment. They say that youth is wasted on the young and old age is a high price to pay for maturity. The Bible encourages us to respect and revere the elderly. We live in times where so much of life is geared towards the young and fit and physically beautiful. This is a movie which raises many thoughts and questions about life in later years. There are moments of difficulty and misunderstanding between Sunny and his mother. We all live with these. The clash of generations.

How do you feel about this? What does it mean to respect our elders now? For our families? Our churches? Our home life?


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  1. Tim Childs says:

    Great post Dave. On the strength of it this sounds like a movie I would like to see sometime. I’m somewhere between bulletproof and worrying about my future! I expect many of us are today, in this present economic climate. But the wonky economic climate for me masks something greater, something more profoundly wrong with our, supposedly Christian, society. When division of all kinds start occurring in society, it usually points to a kind of bankruptcy, not a material bankruptcy, but very much a spiritual one, one that is often forgotten, neglected and ignored. When people have a spiritual vacuum, not just the rich but many of us, we think we can fill it with material things; and we can’t! It’s like making a teapot out of chocolate; the results are always messy.

    As you say quite profoundly I may add, the only constant thing in life is change; always has been. And, we either get on board and adapt, or we are often marginalised in some way. Change in big cities comes about when usually rich prospectors see another way to make even more money, and anyone who doesn’t agree is sidelined in some way, or is ignored and not listened to. I think that some change is inevitable and some is even good; witness the Internet for example, and better global communication and trade. But sometimes in the rush to be rich or expand or just change for it’s own sake, we miss the little moments, we lose the little things that might have made us happy; and by that I mean that as things get streamlined their rough edges are polished off and, as is usual, prices go up and service, well sometimes that doesn’t get better, it just changes. We want to be rich, or think we do, but really what we crave is peace, and time to enjoy that peace; peace to walk through the countryside or the beautiful lonely beach far off the beaten track.

    I seem to be worrying and struggling all the time; my head is filled with little and big worries, and all kinds of things are in tumult inside my head. I don’t think I’m the only one however. And I’m not trying to be dramatic or overly cryptic, just honest. Who knows what tomorrow brings after all? But as a Christian, I have hope; for a better personal future and a better future for us all.

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