The way to a man's heart is through his stomach.
The parable has been quoted time and time again with no real knowledge of its origins. Regardless, Ila is hoping that the words ring true as she looks to add a bit of spice to her marriage through a new recipe. But a complicated lunchbox delivery system has her husband's lunch mistakingly sitting in front of Saajan, a lonely office worker a month away from retirement.
Directed by Ritesh Bartra, The Lunchbox is a simple story about food, friendship and the art of anonymity. The characters, though few in number, are richly developed as you begin to understand their emotions and long for their happiness. The dialogue is smooth and straightforward, leaving nothing to the imagination as the story unfolds at a fluid, yet slightly too authentic pace.
When Ila realizes that her husband is not on the receiving end of her meals, she drops a note in the lunchbox to uncover the recipient. It is through these notes that the story truly takes off, opening us up to a world of compassion and expression as both Ila and Saajan begin to reveal their true personalities. Much like our two central subjects, viewers long to hear the words of the upcoming note, anxious for an answer as their anonymous conversation blossoms into an unexpected friendship.
Nimrat Kaur and Irrfan Khan do a fantastic job as Ila and Saajan respectively. Though hardly ever sharing the screen, the two help to root the story in a convincing realm, allowing viewers to escape into a world where fate and circumstance do lead to a healthy dose of self discovery. Their chemistry, though not easy to notice, is immaculate as they both carry their side of the story, pushing forward and pulling back at just the right time for an equal balance that makes you often question just whose ultimate journey you are following.
Both actors are complemented by a healthy run of supporting characters. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is the most consistent presence other than our leading duo, starring as Saajan's colleague, Shaikh. He compliments Khan brilliantly, allowing us to obtain a deeper understanding of his past and a better grip on the reasons behind his future decisions.
Michael Simmonds knocks it out of the park with his cinematography, capturing the beauty of both the location and the food. But as the story progresses and the letters become a bit more personal, you begin to see a sharp divide in perception and reality. Though healthy to an extent, Bartra raises one ultimate question: How healthy is an anonymous relationship?
*The Lunchbox has been purchased by Sony PIctures Classics.