Movie review: The Lunchbox (2013)

The Lunchbox left me unsatisfied. In a good way.

This Indian film is a slow-moving but engaging movie. The premise is simple but deals with complex situations and emotions. In Indian society, where a convoluted system of daily deliveries of hot lunches to mostly male workers exists, one lunchbox ends up going to the wrong person. A written dialogue is struck up between the two: the wife who sent the lunchbox and the worker who enjoyed it.

In their notes to each other, they divulge private details about their lives. Both are lonely, leading lives without much real human interaction.

Ila is married to a man who ignores her, coming home only to sleep and eat. Nothing she does grabs his attention from his phone and his job.

Saajan is a curmudgeon, a hermit who dutifully does his job well but speaks with no one. He is set to retire when his replacement shows up who he is tasked with training. At this same time, mysterious, delicious lunches appear in place of the lunches that a delivery service makes for him.

The two discuss commonplace items and the intimate details of their lives such as his wife being deceased and her husband having an affair. In essence, an affair, albeit a non-physical one, has developed between the two of them.

One morning as Saajan is going to work, traffic is at a standstill. A woman and her daughter have jumped to their deaths from a tall building. Saajan is left to wonder if it was Ila.

Thankfully the lunch arrives and he impresses on her in his next note to her not to do something like that. She responds that she is thinking of moving to Bhutan to start life over. His response? What if I went to Bhutan with you?

They arrange to meet. However, Saajan is feeling so very old. He shows up at the meeting place to see what Ila looks like but doesn’t approach her. She is left to go home where she is trapped in a loveless marriage with no way to support herself or her daughter.

She decides to track him down, finding out from the lunch delivery service where his workplace is. She arrives only to discover that he retired as he originally planned to do. He is gone. There is no way to find him.

She sells her jewelry, preparing to take herself and her daughter to Bhutan that day. Meanwhile, Saajan leaves for the city is retiring to but after encountering an older gentleman on the train, he realizes that he is not quite that old and not ready to go quietly into old age. He disembarks and tracks down the lunch delivery service to try to find out where Ila lives.

And there the movie ends. We never see if he finds her. We never see if he arrives before Ila leaves for Bhutan. We never see if she actually leaves.

In this respect, The Lunchbox left me unsatisfied…and hungry for the wonderful Indian food that Ila made.

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