An Indian summer

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (12A)

Starring: Dame Judi Dench, Dame Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup, Dev Patel, Lillete Dubey, Tena Desae.

Director: John Madden.

Running time: 123 mins

Adapted from Deborah Moggach’s novel These Foolish Things, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a hilarious and touching comedy about growing old disgracefully.

Ol Parker’s warm and witty script provides the predominantly British cast with moments to shine and tug our heartstrings as love is lost and found beneath a foreign sun.

Director John Madden, who previously helmed the Oscar-winning Shakespeare In Love, captures a different side to life in modern India than the poverty and crime of Slumdog Millionaire.

Performances are an embarrassment of riches, from Maggie Smith’s racist housekeeper to Penelope Wilton’s well-to-do wife, who constantly belittles her husband. Our opinion of Madden’s film is extremely favourable.

Evelyn (Judi Dench) has recently lost her husband and is coming to terms with solitude in her twilight years.

Determined to start anew, she abandons Britain for the balmier climes of Jaipur and a grand retirement home called The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

En route, Evelyn meets six other retirees all bound for this “luxury development for residents in their golden years”: cantankerous wheelchair user Muriel (Smith), who is bypassing the NHS waiting lists to undergo a hip replacement abroad; waspish snob Jean (Wilton) and her long-suffering husband Douglas (Bill Nighy); retired judge Graham (Tom Wilkinson); ladies’ man Norman (Ronald Pickup) and love-hungry spinster Madge (Celia Imrie).

When the exhausted travellers arrive at their destination, they discover a building in disrepair and an inexperienced manager, Sonny (Dev Patel), struggling to keep the creditors off his back.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a delight, milking laughter and tears as characters reach crossroads in their lives It’s a film with appeal across the generations, tapping into universal fears of being forgotten in old age.

Dench is the emotional heart, narrating drolly in voiceover, while Wilkinson delivers a beautifully nuanced performance as a man with heartbreaking ties to India.

Imrie and Pickup are delicious comic relief and Smith is in imperious form: age hasn’t dulled her rapier wit.

Rating: HHHHI