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May 12, 2014 | 6:32 p.m. CST
You know that old cliché. The one about how the way to one’s heart is through the stomach? Well, it seems that this old saying might garner some truth, at least according to first-time director Ritesh Batra. His film explores love in the style of an old black-and-white film. There is no love at first site because the protagonists don’t meet face-to-face. Instead, their paths cross by happenstance.
Set in Mumbai, the film follows Ila, a neglected housewife, and Mr. Fernandes, an office worker on the verge of retirement. One day, Ila's husband’s lunch gets wrongly delivered to Mr. Fernandes. At first, he doesn’t recognize the mistake; however, Ila does. The lunchboxes she sent to her husband were attempts to win back his affection. When Ila writes a note thanking the stranger for enjoying the meal, he responds in kind. From there, a sweet back-and-forth begins between the pair and rather quickly swells into a sort-of romance. There are never any direct words spoken between the two, but that doesn’t matter. Both begin to await each new letter anxiously. Mr. Fernandes gently tucking away her letters in his breast pocket, while Ila gingerly sips her Chai tea and pores over his responses.
The affectionate pen pals very much follow in the vein of classic films such as You’ve Got Mail and The Shop Around the Corner. Like its predecessors, the movie proffers a rare romance — one that is not weighed down by technology or deceit. Instead, the letters offer a type of privacy rarely afforded to would-be lovers. Their subtle romance might not have you rolling in the aisles with laughter or ugly-crying yourself to sleep the same night, but it does offer something else — something much more delicate and fragile than your typical rom-com. Instead, The Lunchbox is a story that inspires hope when there is none and sheds light on beauty in the darkest of places.