This 2014 Indian film is a quirky romantic tale of two very lonely and desperate people attempting to find something to live for. A psychological study of loneliness and hope, “The Lunchbox” masterfully questions how much an individual is willing to risk to change his or her life.
Saajan Fernandes is a fifty-something civil servant on the cusp of retirement and resentful about it. Long a widower, his life is now empty as he coldly but minimally interacts with others: the children in his apartment complex to the young man assigned to be trained as his replacement. Ila, a beautiful young thirty-something mother, studies cooking from television shows and from her aunt, who lives in the apartment upstairs and coaches her to improve her culinary skills in order to please her husband: the old adage about a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. The problem: it is not her husband whose heart is charmed by her cooking. Ila lovingly prepares a lunchbox for her husband, to be delivered by the complex yet typical lunch delivery system for office workers. It is mistakenly delivered to Fernandes.
This begins a series of lunchbox notes as Fernandes awakens from his sleepwalking existence, and Ila begins to feel affection for someone once again. Through their anonymous communications, they reveal their secrets and dreams, discovering a new sense of themselves. The lunches become exquisite tokens of their warmth and mitigate their loneliness: tidbits of love.
But “The Lunchbox” also devastatingly reveals the melancholy of entrapment with no way out. It is a missive in itself: to love regardless– and perhaps, in spite,– of age.
“Sometimes the wrong train can take you to the right station” claims Saajan’s friend. The ending is not a neat tying up of loose ends, and may leave some viewers frustrated. Nonetheless, this is a surprising film of depth, warmth, and character. “The Lunchbox” deserves to be devoured, morsel by morsel, by a wide audience!