The Lunchbox

Taking Mumbai’s intricate interconnections as a metaphoric and literal inspiration, The Lunchbox breathes redeeming new life into familiar themes, including hope, regret, missed connections and the tidal patterns of that dubious force: fate.

Ila lives a listless and isolated life in her Mumbai apartment, trying to jump-start an unhappy marriage by making increasingly show-stopping lunches for her deadbeat husband. 

These meals travel across Mumbai via train, scooter, and many pairs of hands through the famous Dabbawala delivery system.

But, through a glitch in the system, the meals find themselves at the desk of another lonely soul: Saajan Fernandes, a widower preparing for retirement.

The pair fall into a correspondence, tucking secret letters beneath chapatis. The counterweight to this potentially hokey conceit is the quiet, poignant relief we see in each, as an unexpected connection is established across the bustling and isolating modern city. 

The Lunchbox is a film that belongs to its characters.   

Nimrat Kaur plays Ila as a quiet reservoir of desperation and perseverance, while the much-missed Irrfan Khan, who died earlier this year, brings gravity and grace to the well-worn figure of the lonely old grump. As the Times of India put it, his performance is “underplayed, yet lasting, like a cardamom between your lips”.

While maintaining an unobtrusive, observational style, writer-director Ritesh Batra draws subtle but eloquent metaphors from Mumbai’s everyday landscape.

Multi-layered lunchboxes store secrets in their unassuming tin exteriors. A neighbour’s dumb-waiter acts like a tounge-in-cheek deus ex machina. And the city’s rattling trains pull people towards destinies they might be resigned to, or else try to jump off before it’s too late.

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