Niagara Gazette

Night & Day

April 1, 2014

CALLERI: A comic book adventure and two foreign films entice moviegoers


Niagara Gazette — Except for one performer, the acting is sub-par. Evans speaks without energy. A too mellow Robert Redford shows up and ambles through his role. Only Scarlett Johannson as Black Widow creates an aura.

Overall, the movie is too by-the-numbers and lacks a sense of daring. It comes across as having been made because it had to be done.

“The Lunchbox” is a bittersweet romantic comedy from India. Letters exchanged between strangers have provided plots for literary fiction, but their use in movies is tougher to pull off. Showing characters reading notes can become boring. It takes a solid directorial hand to make this work on screen.

Although it’s his first feature film, “The Lunchbox,” from India, is in very good hands with Ritesh Batra directing from his own screenplay.

The movie explores the tradition of dabbawala, which is an astonishing delivery system through which hot lunches packed in cylindrical containers are collected, most often from the homes of workers, and are brought to their workplaces by primarily men using bicycles. One dabbawala might deliver dozens of lunchboxes to many addresses. The empty canisters are returned to the customers’ residences after lunch. Mistakes in pick-up and delivery are rarely made. One day, Saajan, a long-time government employee close to retirement, receives the wrong lunchbox. He usually gets his dabba from a restaurant,

The new food is delicious, and he sends back a grateful note. Soon a figurative relationship is begun with Ila, a young woman in a dull marriage, who cooks the enticing lunches. The errant deliveries continue, and they exchange letters. Out of this simplicity rises a superb film that engages moviegoers as so few do. Should they meet? Will they?

It’s wonderful to watch the story unfold as it examines the taboos of a slowly changing society and offers a fascinating glimpse of the sights and sounds of Mumbai. The very well-acted movie stars Irrfan Khan as Saajan and Nimrat Kaur as Ila, both of whom express the complexities of their character’s situation with great style and consideration. “The Lunchbox” is a completely engaging film.

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