The Lunch Box

This is a wonderful little movie that deserves a wider audience.

Ila, a middle-class housewife in Mumbai, works hard to provide her husband a box lunch that he will enjoy.  One day, the lunch box returns absolutely empty.  When her husband returns home, much later, he can barely remember the food, and Ila realizes her box was misdelivered.  Sure enough, the box was delivered to Sanjaan. a government bureaucrat and widower, close to retirement, who realizes right away his lunch didn’t come from the commercial establishment he had arranged delivery from.  Correspondence ensues.

This is an Indian film that feels like a French film — lots of focus on interpersonal relationships.  In addition to the correspondents, we follow the relationship between Sanjaan and the young man who had been hired to replace him, and between Ila and her upstairs neighbor, trapped like Ila in a loveless marriage.  And there are several enjoyable segments depicting Mumbai’s famous lunch delivery system, where thousands of fresh-made lunches are picked up every morning from apartments and small shops and delivered to the desks of the city’s office workers, and returned in mid-afternoon.  The system is apparently amazingly accurate, despite the fact that deliveries often require long, complex transit routes, little is written down, and many of the messengers are only marginally literate.

Some of the reviews I’ve read complain the ending is ambiguous.  It is not.  But you need to pay close attention to the final scenes, which proceed without dialogue. Sometimes the wrong train leads to the right station.

In Hindi and English, with English subtitles throughout (even for the English language segments, which is just as well).

Recommended for family viewing.  Even pre-teens might enjoy this engaging look at a way of live very different from our own.

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