The Lunchbox (2013) by Ritesh Batra

The Lunchbox is a surprising film in that it is a sincere, poetic take on an unlikely romantic relationship. It manages to tell a refreshing love story in a market that is overly saturated with romantic comedies, or just films that ham fist some element of romance into them.

Beautifully performed by Irrfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur, the film tells the story of two people who connect when a lunchbox is delivered to the wrong address by Mumbai’s famous Dabbawallas. The story shows how the two bond over letters that they write for each other and deliver through the lunchbox that makes a return trip every day. Each letter brings to light more about the characters and their worlds through short stories that are interesting in themselves.

My only criticism is that while the film is only 100 minutes long, it feels a bit slow after a point as there is no real shift in the plot. This seems intentional in that the film is okay to let the characters take a long way around instead of introducing higher stakes or forcing a deadline. However, it comes at the cost of pacing which I personally do not enjoy. The rush of a story coming to an end is lost as we walk there instead of running there. Which is what, The Lunchbox does. It meanders its way, setting up very gripping, nuanced, realistic, warm characters, but refuses to add enough plot to push them along a bit further, so much so that the film feels like it might have been better if it lost 15 minutes somewhere.

That said, I really want to take note of how the characters were introduced and played out. They are uniquely simple, a widower and a housewife. They are also charmingly complex. The widower is somewhat bitter and alone, the housewife is loving and lonely. Thus their natural chemistry is believable but also thoroughly unexpected. The fact that they bond through letters is also refreshing as it avoids the trope of falling in love at first sight. Sight, after all, does not get a chance to get involved.

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