For a movie centered around death, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is one of the most uplifting films I’ve seen in a while.

Dev Patel is an absolute delight as the unique establishment’s fallible but well-meaning owner. And despite her best attempts at an ambivalent, curmudgeonly demeanor, Maggie Smith’s character is lovable and moving, perhaps to the point of tears.

The Second finds our crew of lovable misfits happily settled into their home at the hotel, while Dev’s Sonny and Maggie’s co-owner Muriel hit San Diego on the hunt for a sponsor to fund growth for the hotel.

Sonny is adorably cheesy in his excitement at the prospect of expansion, renting a convertible and taking the begrudging Muriel onto Route 66, where he happily says: “We most assuredly are getting our kicks.”

Tension in the film comes from suspense as to whether or not the pair will receive their backing for the new hotel, as well as the arrival of Sonny’s rival, the handsome Kushal (Shazad Latif).

His insecurity over the childhood rivalry threatens to ruin his relationship with fiancée Sunaina (Tina Desai), who he should be working with to finalize plans on their wedding.

It’s particularly painful when Sonny neglects to practice the dance routine Sunaina created with his brother and Kushal, only to embarrass himself at the couple’s doomed rehearsal dinner.

Meanwhile, Evelyn (Judi Dench) and Douglas (Bill Nighy) are also working on their budding relationship, each too timid to make a move, while Madge (Celia Imrie) cannot decide who to marry between two devoted suitors.

Everything is shaken up as in the midst of all this drama two guests arrive, one a woman much younger than the expected guest of the Marigold, another a handsome gentleman played by Richard Gere. He finds himself taken with an unlikely frequenter of the hotel, much to the surprise of both herself and Sonny.

It’s often difficult for a sequel to stand up to the original, but The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel comes through, offering a thoroughly feel-food performance.

One of the best parts of the movie is the tender relationship between Muriel and Sonny – one of friendship, mentorship, and sincere affection. It’s hard not to get emotional in any of the scenes where Sonny so desperately seeks his mentor’s advice.

All in all, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, while a strange premise, and a potentially depressing theme, is truly an all-around delight.