Though living something of a monotonous life, nearing an early retirement after 35 years in the same job, Saajan is rejuvenated when opening up the most mouth-watering of lunch-boxes. Usually reliant on the company’s caterers, this time his order was mixed up, and instead received beleagured housewife Ila’s (Nimrat Kaur) offering, initially intended for her husband. As they both become aware of the mishap, rather than correct it, instead they start sending each other letters, stuffing them in the container for the other to read. While unaware of each other’s identity, they seem to offer something they both desperately need; a distraction from their everyday life.
Director and writer Ritesh Batra presents a charming and amiable production that comes equipped with a simplistic, yet ultimately layered premise. There’s an enchanting romanticism to this film, and yet there remains an underlying poignancy, as the two characters are so nuanced and their situations tragically naturalistic, as two people desperately unhappy in life and seeking something different, something new. Batra moves between our two characters and their respective predicaments seamlessly, with their letters to one another narrating their situations and often profound reflections.
Khan shines as the lead role, turning in such a brilliantly subtle performance. For such a huge star, he manages to play normality so sincerely, with an understated approach. His character embarks on a real emotional journey and we see the subtle changes to his demeanour every step of the way. Kaur is also more than commendable, while many of her best scenes take place when talking to her neighbour ‘Auntie’, who we never actually see. She’s almost like a fairy godmother of sorts, a voice in the clouds that bellows down – a spiritual, omniscient presence.
The Lunchbox is a moving piece of cinema, that manages to feel somewhat conventional, and yet wholly unpredictable too, as a tender production that is worth seeking out. The one and only big criticism of this film, is that is makes you exceedingly hungry when watching. So the best advice is to see this early evening, then head out for a curry straight afterwards. There honestly won’t be many better ways to spend an evening.