The Lunchbox is an Indian indie film that took me by surprise. Made by Ritesh Batra and starring Irrfan Khan as Saajan and Nimrat Kaur as Ila, The Lunchbox is a unique romance in which the two protagonists never actually meet (at least not during the film).
When the lunchbox Ila prepares for her husband gets delivered to Saajan instead, it begins an exchange of notes that will offer both characters a break from the loneliness they are feeling. Saajan, nearing retirement age, is an unfriendly widower who seems to have no use for people. Ila, meanwhile, feels no connection to her husband, who is having an affair, and talks instead (through her kitchen window) with the woman (auntie) living above her as she dreams of escape (of a better life somewhere else).
I will say no more, as I recommend The Lunchbox to all (though it won’t appeal to those who have difficulty with slow-paced films). It’s a very simple story, told with great patience and beautifully acted (it’s also beautifully filmed) by Khan and Kaur (and by Nawazuddin Saddiqui, who plays Saajan’s colleague, Shaikh). The three main characters are well-developed and the thoughts about aging and the need for connection and community are profound.
The Lunchbox is another one of those films that might have gotten **** during a lesser year. But in 2014, it will have to settle for ***+. My mug is up.