2014 | 105 minutes | Rated PG
There is an amazing process that happens daily in Mumbai: Thousands of hot homemade lunches are picked up from suburban kitchens and then travel by bike, train, and handcart to the city to be delivered to the desks of hungry office workers. The army of dabbawalas (lunch couriers) make up an unbelievably complex network that brings a personal exchange to the vast, bustling city. In The Lunchbox, a young homemaker named Ila (Nimrat Kaur) has a husband who is distracted and distant. She begins making him special food to try to get his attention ("One bite of that, and he'll build you a Taj Mahal," her aunt tells her). But the lunches go astray in the journey and end up at the desk of Saajan (the wonderful Irrfan Khan: Life of Pi, The Namesake). Saajan is a widower who has been working in the same archaic claims department for 35 years, a strict man of routine who lives a solitary life. When it becomes clear that Ila's husband is not receiving the lunchboxes (and he doesn't even notice that he isn't eating her cooking), she includes a note to discover who is enjoying her food. (When Ila later tells the deliveryman that the lunches are going to the wrong place, he tells her it is simply not possible.) So begins a back-and-forth correspondence through notes included in the tiered metal lunchbox; Ila and Saajan comment on the news and share details of their lives, memories, regrets, and family stories. It is a sweet, rich, and complex story, and there is a gentleness to their old-fashioned communication with notes. The unusual relationship opens them up to other things in their lives, and makes them willing to reach beyond what they would normally expect.
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