REVIEW: The Lunchbox

29 06 2014

The LunchboxLondon Film Festival, 2013

Could a film possibly be a romantic comedy if the two leads don’t end up together … or if they never even meet?  Because that’s precisely the film that “The Lunchbox” is.  And darned if it didn’t make my heart flutter.

Ritesh Batra’s first film is absolutely disarming as it reminds us the power that unexpected relationships can wield.  He doesn’t hold back the sentimentality, allowing us rich emotional connection with the characters, yet Batra does not cave to its pressures for perfect resolution.

“The Lunchbox” is nothing if not honest, and we feel all the more enriched by his sidestepping of the gushy genre cliches.  In fact, the film recalls an indie-fied “You’ve Got Mail,” only replacing the capitalist undertones from “There Will Be Blood” with the foodie fix of “Julie & Julia.”

It all begins when a frustrated housewife, Nimrat Kaur’s charming Ila, tries to enliven her tired marriage by making her husband an especially tasty lunch that he can enjoy on his break.  While much of “The Lunchbox” reflects more globally shared feelings and frustrations, the dabbawalas system of couriers bring meals from wives at home to their husbands at work marks a facet that’s distinctly Mumbai.  Yet on this fateful day, the dabbawala does not deliver Ila’s lunchbox into the correct hands.

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