Ritesh Batra took something mundane and gave it a strength I bet most Hollywood studios would be interested in. Because The Lunchbox found an interesting way of telling a love story without the main characters ever actually having to meet... and it seemed to only need the same four locations. Yet somehow it was always interesting and never took the subject matter for granted.
Essentially, the movie is based on a very efficient crowdsourcing service that has existed in Mumbai for years now: the lunchbox service. But one day a woman's lunchbox for her uncaring husband is accidentally sent to the wrong person. But this person actually takes a liking to her cooking, and they begin to hide notes in the lunchbox.
Now that concept in and of itself doesn't blow me away. But the film that was built around it is very interesting. Irrfan Khan has proven to be nothing short of a joy to watch. You may recall his excellent performances in Slumdog Millionaire and Life of Pi most notably. But here, he adds to his extensive resume something a little more grounded... here we actually get to watch him grow as a character... learn something about life. And that, simply put, is a joy to experience.
Nimrat Kaur impressed me as well. She has a very clear voice and her character became rather interesting as she seemingly walked a tightrope through her repressed life, only to find a thread of a glimmer of hope when she needed it the most. Her part is particularly interesting in that she almost never leaves her apartment (so no extra sets needed) and the second most important character in her storyline, Auntie, literally never appears on screen. So Nimrat is left with the very crucial task of carrying her scenes with almost no support. She manages this feet with a tact and maturity well beyond her years. The third lead, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, also proves to be a joy to watch as we slowly peel back the onion of his character and discover that he is nothing of what he seemed at first glance.
I suppose this movie is so exciting to me because it is, plain and simple, a breath of fresh air... a step away from the studio system (or lack-there-of) we somehow seem to coddle here in America. This movie could have just been a small indie based out of Mumbai, but it somehow made its way over to us. And it had a worthy cast. And a team of quality artistic thinkers making it into a whole lot more. And while it may not crack my top ten for the year, its spiritual presence will surely keep me thinking into future moviegoing experiences.
You can rent it for 99 cents on iTunes right now.