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Movie review: 'The Lunchbox' serves up touching, romantic drama

Published April 3, 2014 3:21 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Food and fate play major roles in "The Lunchbox," a touching romantic drama that shines a light on a fascinating aspect of life in modern India.

In Mumbai, office workers get hot lunch, cooked either by their wives or a restaurant, in containers (called "dabbas") from a complex distribution web of deliverymen — the Dabbawallahs. Mistakes are said to be rare, but one happens when Ila (Nimrat Kaur), a lonely middle-class housewife, learns that her inattentive husband (Nakul Vaid) isn't getting her homemade lunches.

One day Ila leaves a note with the bread and gets a reply from the recipient of her cooking: Saajan (played by "Life of Pi" narrator Irrfan Khan), a widower approaching early retirement at his government desk job. A relationship develops through letters as Ila pours out her heart to this stranger in ways she could never do with anyone else. Meanwhile, Saajan befriends a trainee clerk (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) who makes him think of his youth.

Writer-director Ritesh Batra makes a soulful feature debut, catching glimpses of the lively Mumbai streets while gingerly capturing the heartache of two lonely people finding an unexpected connection.

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'The Lunchbox'

Opens Friday, March 28, at the Broadway Centre Cinemas; rated PG for thematic material and smoking; mostly in Hindi, with subtitles; 104 minutes.