Film Review: The Lunchbox

Over the past few months it has become more and more apparent that my local multiplex cinemas have been showing less and less variety in the films they are offering with comic book “blockbusters” and 3D “smash hits” stealing every available screening much to the detriment of smaller, less mainstream films.

As a result, I have been started to revisit my local independent cinema, not only does it feel nice to be giving something back to real film lovers so-to-speak, but also, to have an opportunity to see films that I wouldn’t otherwise have discovered on a big screen. The Lunchbox is an exact case of this. I has never even heard of it, and then while watching the trailers before Labyrinth up it pops and instantly charms my heart, grabs my attention and demands I come to see it.

Ila Cooking - The Lunchbox

Sadly though, the movie in my head, the movie create by the trailer and the story I was expecting were not played out on screen and I have been left somewhat disappointed and dejected by the fall from grace The Lunchbox has suffered. The idea behind the story is a simple, fulfilling and potentially very clever idea of the relationship between two strangers and how the disconnection of simple words on a piece of paper affects our feelings, our outlook and our honesty in what we write when we don’t have to look the recipient in the eye. Told using the Indian Dabbawalla Lunchbox service, you can look at the film either as the simple tale it is, or deeper finding themes and ideas around happiness, romance, reflection and on a grander scale a social metaphor for the way digital technology has removed direct social interaction from our lives and left us unable to think and communicate.

But in reality, it’s the use of the lunch box as the vehicle on which the film is based that causes most of its problems. Essentially this film revolves around Saajan Fernandes (Irrfan Khan) reading a note while eating and then Ila (Nimrat Kaur) cooking while perusing the reply. And the whole film evolves from the notes, meaning there is very little natural substance to the film on screen. A man sitting down eating and a lady standing while cooking, ignoring all social stereotypes, does not make for a long or entertaining film. And so, to counter this the director, Ritesh Batra, has tried to expand the worlds into which the characters live and give us more to feast on as we wait for the next lunchtime repetition.

Saajan Eating - The Lunchbox

It’s this expansion that has destroyed the film for me though. The film is so light and delicate that it is totally overwhelmed by the monotony of the everyday lives that are expanding around the central core point. So much so that it starts to lose it charm and draw. It doesn’t help that the pacing of the film is slow. It’s doesn’t trudge or plod but rather, in compliment to the monotony that takes over, it just ticks along at a single, slow pace and while I never found myself pulling away from it, or even becoming bored, the longer it went on the more my mind started to wander slightly. I wanted less of the back story, less of the surface filler and a deeper, more interesting story about the relationship between Ila and Saajan and while thankfully, although it went close to the famous Hollywood clich√© of the couple falling for each other, meeting up and living happily ever after, manages to leave you guessing and never feels predicable in the direction it heads you never feel like the movie really delivers all it can through the notes and is too heavily padded to help fill the rest of the time.

I wouldn’t say it’s a bad film, primarily because it’s not, I disappointingly enjoyed it, but it hasn’t moved me in the way I was expecting, I was expecting a much more profound and immersive tale than the one that was served up and as I think back to it film last night, I am simply getting glimpses of pleasantry rather than anything of standout note. The film makes an interesting highlight of the fact that “Sometimes the wrong train will get you to the right station” …but sometimes, you just end up missing your stop.

5 out of 10 stars (5 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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