Movie Review: “The Lunchbox” – The Best Way to the Heart is Through Lunch

Written by Rebecca Mirabelli June 08, 2014

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“The Lunchbox” is a film by director Ritesh Bartra that showcases the intricate, well-oiled machine that is the Indian lunchbox collection system in Mumbai: the “Dabbawalla System.” The films creates a story of how it began as a systematic mistake in Mumbai and turned into a mysterious romantic correspondence. As a system without error with meticulous workers who memorize the pick-up locations and railway schedules, “The Lunchbox” presents a story about the most improbable thing to occur: a mistake. The film is about an incorrectly delivered lunch, connecting a young married woman and a widower whose relationship blossoms through notes of correspondence left in the lunchbox.

Ila (Nimrat Kaur) is a beautiful young woman whose home life is less than satisfactory. Ignored by her husband, Ila seeks friendship from the hilarious “Auntie” who lives upstairs and is never once seen. Encouraged by Auntie to make a lunch that is bound to make Ila’s husband fall in love with Ila again, Ila gives the green lunchbox to the Dabbawalla, who makes that fateful mistake of delivering Ila’s lunch to Saajan Fernandes (Irrfan Khan).

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Saajan is an on-the-fence retired accountant; a gloomy and unhappy man living a life of solitude and routine. His monotonous and lonely lunchtime routine consists of a cauliflower-based lunch normally delivered to him from a local restaurant. However, he is spectacularly surprised with the non-cauliflower delicacy that arrives one day, and continues to arrive day after day. After Ila confronts her husband to determine that he did not receive her lunchbox but some “cauliflower concoction, Ila discovers that the system continues to make the same mistake. Once Ila confirms that her husband continues to receive another’s lunch, she leaves a note in the lunchbox to see who has been eating every last morsel of her meals.

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The dialogue and relationship that develops through the notes left in the lunchbox is a lighthearted, loving, and special connection composed of recipe suggestions, anecdotes, advice, and confessions. “The Lunchbox” is a beautifully told film with a simple narrative driven by two people’s desire to seek out another who can displace, or completely erase, their loneliness. Wonderfully comical yet serious in times where it is needed, “The Lunchbox” is a lighthearted love story about an improbable relationship brought on by the most unlikely of mistakes. Charming and uplifting, “The Lunchbox” has you hoping for the success of Ila and Saajan’s blossoming relationship.

“Sometimes the wrong train can take you to the right destination.”

One of the marvels of “The Lunchbox” is the subtle yet evident character development that perfectly captures the changing attitudes of Ila and Saajan. From a passive, bored woe-begotten housewife to a powerful woman who takes charge of her feelings, Ila becomes a stronger character through the inspiration she gathers from her developing relationship with Saajan. And Saajan, from a bored accountant who is of the right age to retire but chooses not to because otherwise he would have nothing to do, becomes of nicer character, lets others into his life and begins to break out of his solitude and introverted shell. Ila’s character development is demonstrated through Ila’s changing relationship with her husband and Auntie, whereas Saajan’s developing character is evident through his changing work relationship with Shaikh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), the man hired to replace Saajan once he retires. Charming, poetic, and heartwarming, I would absolutely recommend “The Lunchbox” to all with hungry hearts and bellies.

My Rating: 8.5/10

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