One line made me want to see this movie: "How do you stand this country; what do you see that I don't?"
In essence I would say the theme of the movie the challenge of dealing with change; not just surviving in it, but thriving - that is true success. It is about accepting that things don't ever stay the same and we can't know what the future hold, except that it will be different.
One minute you're crying and the next you're laughing through the tears. I loved all the characters, even though I did not always agree with their choices. In the end it is about each one discovering him/herself, even if it means finally having the courage to admit and face the ugly truth. It is about being free to embrace life for all that it is, and to embrace the people and the opportunities that presents itself to us. There's a little something to be learnt from each of the characters.
Jean is unhappily married to Douglas - a good soul, but he's really only been tolerating his wife of 40 years because he is kind and loyal. She has become a very difficult woman to love; she doesn't even love herself anymore. She pretends for most of the movie that all is well, but as time passes "the real Slim Shady stands up". She refuses to explore the city or the culture. Instead, she chooses to stay cooped up in the dilapidated hotel and slowly losing her mind as she asks herself the question What is it that I don't see? Pretense only last so long before you don't fool yourself or anyone else anymore, and when the rickshaw trip back to the airport - an escape from the taxi stuck in rush hour traffic - can only afford the opportunity of two people without luggage, or one person with luggage, that is when Jean finally faces the truth about an empty marriage.
Douglas, on the other hand, takes to exploring the city and the sites. He is hungry for feeling alive and making the most of life and the moment that he is in despite the fact that they spend their life savings taking a risk on their daughter's new business venture. While waiting on the outcome of their investment, he decides that he might as well enjoy India.
When Graham - a former High Court judge - came to India, he knew that he was never leaving. He is there to find truth based on an event from his childhood. He grew up in India, but a devastating event separates him from his best friend. He just has to know how he's friend has been for the past forty years. As afraid as he is, he finds the courage to face it and triumphs. Now he can finally rest in peace.
Muriel has been a housekeeper all her life, but the old is replaced with the new and suddenly she has become obsolete. On top of her heartbreak, she is in India for a hip replacement. She travels quite the emotional and physical journey to find new meaning and purpose. Someone still needs her after all. For me the moment with Muriel is when someone thanks her for her kindness and she is humble enough to admit that she had in fact not been kind. This gesture is the turning point in her story though. Maybe she can manage to see past her own pain.
Evenlyn's husband passed away. The man that she had trusted with her life for 40 years has left her with secrets and enough debt to deplete all of her life savings and other resources. In her journey the biggest moment is her question: What is the point of a marriage if you cannot share? This is the starting point of Evelyn's healing. She has devoted her life to a man who did not share with her and she had been lonely for the most of her 40 year life of devotion. Her story touched my heart in particular.
Norman is an old man who is not ready to stop living yet. At least he can admit it to himself. With some help from Madge - a lonely woman also looking for love - Norman meets Carol. At first he tries to pretend but it takes him less than a minute to realize that being real is the secret to successful relationships. "Hi, I'm Norman and I'm lonely." "I'm Carol, and so am I."
Madge just needed a little inspiration and Norman and Carol's success is just the encouragement that the doctor has ordered.
And then there's Sonny, the owner of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. His dream is to revive the dream of his father - to rebuild the hotel - to "outsource the old aged" and give them a place so wonderful that they refuse to die. He is a dreamer - he sees things as they could be and not as they are - but he doesn't believe that he deserves good things - or a good woman - and so he behaves like a man that needs others 'permission to be happy (and if they don't give it, he graciously tries to accept defeat) - initially he seems like a dreamer might be all that he will remain. He has a good heart and his courage is inspiring, but gratefully he also learns to take a stand and go after what he wants with all his heart - his woman and his hotel. He finds that people will often only keep telling you no until you have the guts to stand up to them with your own resounding yes! When you believe enough in yourself is when others will start believing too; when things will start to come together.
The only thing we can know about the future is that it will be different but be inspired to not just get by - be inspired to thrive! Decide to not miss one moment of the journey. You never know what you might find, or where.