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The Lunchbox (2013): Letters, Lunches, Loneliness and Loveliness

The Lunchbox Film ReviewFilm Review: The Lunchbox (2013)

The Lunchbox is the debut feature film of Indian filmmaker Ritesh Batra and what a lovely debut it is. The film follows the repercussions of a mix-up in the renowned “dabbawallas”, an intricate lunch delivery system in Mumbai, where personal lunches are couriered from homes/restaurants to workplaces and back again. A woman’s lunch to her husband goes astray and ends up as another man’s lunch – this little mishap sets in motion some unforeseen, life-altering consequences.

The Prickly Man and the Trapped Housewife

Saajan Fernandes, played by Irrfan Khan, is a prickly man, a man who hides his deep loneliness behind a veneer of grumpiness. He is about to retire. His wife is dead. He has no children, no near relations, no friends. He is alone and rejecting the world.

Ila, played by Nimrat Kaur, is a lonely housewife, full of love and hopes and dreams, which are perpetually ignored and rejected by her distant husband. All her attempts to reignite romance in the marriage are failing. He is seeking pleasures elsewhere and Ila is feeling increasingly trapped.

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Food as Messenger and Instigator

So Ila cooks. She cooks wonderful dishes, pouring all her love and hopes into her concoctions, in hopes that her husband will feel her and reciprocate. He does not. But when her beautiful lunches start being delivered to the wrong man, to the grumpy Saajan, well, he feels her. Saajan recognizes immediately the care and love and attention that has gone into these meals. It moves him, this prickly old man who’s been rejecting life. He feels this anonymous cook and begins to feel again himself.

Quickly realizing that her husband’s lunches are going astray, Ila sends along a note explaining the mishap. Saajan reads it and responds. More lunches follow and more notes are exchanged. Moved by her food, Saajan opens up, revealing more of himself. Moved by his revelations and his reception of her food, Ila opens up, revealing more of herself.

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Sated by Ila’s food, Saajan begins to open himself to life, to new social relations, to new friendships, to new future plans. He begins to be generous and nice and forgiving. Empowered by Saajan’s recognition of her, Ila begins to see herself as more than a housewife. She begins to see in herself strength and autonomy, that she can make her own decisions, be her own woman, choose her own life.

Do these letter writers ever meet? Does Ila leave her loveless marriage? Does Saajan and Ila’s intimate friendship develop into love? Do they act upon this love?

Yeah, you’ll have to see this lovely film to find out.

RELATED: 10 Literary Love Letters – Important Missives in New and Old Love Stories

A Lovely Film

The Lunchbox is indeed a lovely film. It won the Viewers’ Choice Award, the Grand Rail D’Or, during the International Critics’ Week at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013, and it is easy to see why. It is a crowd-pleasing piece, an epistolary romance with wide appeal.

I’m a sucker for food movies and this one really hits the spot. The acting is superb. The cinematography is splendid. I can’t recommend The Lunchbox highly enough.

Where to Watch: Netflix in Europe, DVD.

Content Note: Rated PG. There is nothing to come after here.

Have you seen The Lunchbox? Have you ever eaten a meal that touched you profoundly? Share your thoughts in the comments.


Five Corset Rating Lower Byte Size

“The stuff that dreams are made of.”


Five heart rating

“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.

I have loved none but you.”

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By on June 26th, 2017

About Jessica Jørgensen

A lover of words, stories and storytellers since her youth and just plain curious by nature, Jessica embarked on a very long academic journey that took her across a continent (from Canada's west coast to its east) and even to the other side of the globe, where she currently lives an expat existence in Denmark. She now trails many fancy initials behind her name, if she ever cares to use them, and continues to be ever so curious. She's a folklorist, a mother, a wife, a middle child, a small town girl, a beekeeper, an occasional quilter, a jam-maker. She curates museum exhibits, gets involved in many cultural projects for this and that, collects oral histories when she can find the time and continues to love stories in all their many and varied forms. The local librarians all know her by name.

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11 thoughts on “The Lunchbox (2013): Letters, Lunches, Loneliness and Loveliness”

  1. I have seen The Lunchbox and really liked the unique story idea. I’m not much of a foodie myself, but watching films like this make me wish that I was.

    • Oh, it’s just so nice to watch food on film — my own concoctions will never turn out like do on the screen (-: And this film was such a mouthwatering watch (-:

        • Yes! That one is really great. I love “Like Water For Chocolate”, a Mexican, magic-realism film based on Laura Esquivel’s book. All about recipes, families, food… And then there’s a great Taiwanese film by Ang Lee, “Eat Drink Man Woman” about a master chef who loses his ability to taste/smell, and all this is woven into a story of relationships with his daughters…And then there’s a lovely little French film “Haute Cuisine”, a true story about the personal female chef to Francois Mitterrand…Yeah, just a few of my favourite foodie films (-: Perhaps there’s a list forming here…

          • I liked Haute Cuisine. Have you seen the French film “Romantics Anonymous” about two extremely shy chocolate makers?

          • No, but now that I’ve googled it, it looks like one I should be checking out (-: Have you ever seen “Babette’s Feast”? Now that I’m living in Denmark, I should mention that one (-: The first Oscar win for Denmark back in the 80s (-:

          • No, but it is on my list. I’ve heard great things about Babette’s Feast. Speaking of foodie stories, have you read the Two Blue Doors series by Hillary Manton Lodge? It’s the story of chef/restaurant manager who comes from a family of chefs and each chapter features a recipe that she makes in the story.

          • No, I haven’t heard of that series, but it definitely sounds like something I should check out, especially after reading today’s review of the same author’s book “Jane of Austin”. Seems like an author I should be checking out (-: So thanks for the head’s up!

  2. I just watched it thanks to your recommendation. 🙂 Yes, it’s a delightful movie, and I love learning more about Indian culture through it. The food made me want to have one of those Amy’s Indian lunches, but I don’t have any in the house right now. 😉 I couldn’t figure out why they kept switching back and forth to English and their own language, however.

    • So glad you enjoyed it. Just thinking about this movie makes me hungry! As for the English, well, I would guess — having never been to India, mind you — that as former British colony, English in India has been taught and used extensively for a very long time. So for many of the educated middle-class (and upwards) in the larger cities, English is a language they have been exposed to and are familiar with. And a quick google search tells me that English is the lingua franca of India, so that when speakers of differing mother tongues meet (and there are many, many native languages in India), they will often use English as the common language…It’s been my experience that multilingual people tend to hop between languages. I do it myself all the time, sometimes mid-sentence (-:


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