‘The Lunchbox,’ reviewed by Marshall Fine


It took me two tries to see “The Lunchbox” (the first time was at a film festival screening that was cancelled for technical reasons) – but it was more than worth the effort.

Ritesh Batra’s moving, subtly witty and perceptive film, opening Friday in limited release, is a showcase for its two stars, the marvelous Irrfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur, who is a fresh face to me and an actress capable of the kind of interior life that Khan always brings to the screen.

She plays Ila, first seen cooking and packing a lunch in her kitchen for her husband, one of those stacking metal container sets known as a tiffin. As the opening credits roll, we see a deliveryman pick up the wrapped tiffin, add it to the dozen other lunches he also is delivering, then board a train, apparently from the suburbs into Mumbai, where it lands on the desk of Saajan (Khan), an aging insurance adjuster.

The lunch delivery system, which apparently is a huge enterprise in Mumbai, is world-famous for its efficiency. But this particular service makes a mistake: Saajan is not the intended recipient of Ila’s lunch. Both sides of the equation figure this out: Saajan because the food is so much better than what he usually receives; Ila because her husband barely registers that he has eaten something other than what Ila sent him.

“The Lunchbox” turns into an epistolary tale, as Ila and Saajan begin to send notes back and forth in the lunch. At first, it is only about the food – him complimenting her, asking for more or less spice; her talking about the food itself. Gradually, however, they begin to open up to each other, strangers at opposite ends of the lunch delivery system.

This review continues on my website.