Calling a movie pleasant sounds backhanded. I suppose there are times I’ve labeled a movie as merely pleasant in a manner to demean a picture. As if to imply it’s a decent way to spend time whose impact will immediately fade.
When I call The Lunchbox pleasant, I mean it as an utmost compliment. This moderate foreign hit from earlier this year recently hit home video, or whatever it is we call it now. It’s the debut picture of Indian writer/director Ritesh Batra and sounds, upon description, like it could be nauseating. A lonely wife (Nimrat Kaur) prepares and sends lunch to her husband via an elaborate delivery service. She does this everyday and it always goes to the right place; then it doesn’t. A retiring, curmudgeonly widow (Irrfan Khan) receives the lunch one day, assuming it’s from his own vendor. He devours every bite and sends back the empty lunchbox and Kaur’s character thinks her husband must really love the new recipe she attempted. The husband says nothing and Kaur soon realizes the mistake continues and then begins writing letters to Khan. Each letter is more intimate and open than the last as these two lovelorn folks find themselves falling for the person on the other end of the meal.
Such a premise could be soured easily and if it’s ever made into an American adaptation, it’s likely to be cloying and star, oh, let’s say Anne Hathaway. Batra’s movie is a tender one. It takes its time developing Kaur and Khan’s personalities, fears and passions. The film goes to certain expected avenues, yet is genuinely pleasant along the way. We have Khan’s hesitance about his age versus Kaur’s, as well as her quiet attempts to gain fresh affection from her husband. The Lunchbox draws one in one meal, one letter and one element at a time. These aren’t two people made for one another. That is not the same as implying they wouldn’t make the other happy and fulfilled.
Despite its decent financial run, the movie will not be getting any end of the year awards push; that controversially failed to come to fruition the last go-around. As such, The Lunchbox could easily fade into this year’s cinematic background. Do yourself a favor and find this warm romantic yarn.