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Director Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox is a must-see movie for food enthusiasts. Ila, played by the stunningly beautiful Nimrat Kaur, is a lonely housewife in Mumbai, India who desperately wants to please and attract her emotionally distant husband. Every day she takes great efforts to prepare his lunch in a unique (at least in our western culture) stacked tin lunchbox which is picked up by a local delivery system and brought to him at work. Our story opens with this lunchbox being delivered to the wrong person, a Mr. Saajan Fernandez, played by Irrfan Khan. Saajan is an equally lonesome man on the verge of retirement who has been charged with training his replacement. Very quickly both Ila and Saajan realize the lunchbox is not reaching the person it was intended for, and they begin to exchange daily notes that serve as an emotional outlet for their dually forsaken hearts.
I first came across this movie on a list of films all foodies should see. As the leader of Corinth’s monthly program An Edible Discussion, I felt obligated to watch it—all in the name of duty, of course. The movie is in subtitles, though about half the time they use a combined English-Hindi speech which, when it catches you off guard, makes you feel like you miraculously somehow understand Hindi. Perhaps because of the subtitles, the viewer is forced to focus solely on the movie and not multitask while watching, leading for a greater appreciation for all the story has to offer. I was immediately captivated by Ila and Saajan’s stories and found their loneliness to transcend time and culture. This is an evocative film that will initially appeal to foodies, but which will ultimately resonate with sentimentalists.
Those who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Lasse Hallstrom’s 2014 film, The Hundred-Foot Journey. Set in a charming French village, a budding, self-taught Indian chef sets up shop across the street from one of the finest French restaurants in the world. Both love and war manifest as the French restaurant’s owner, played by Helen Mirren, makes it her ambition to shut down the competition.
Another must-see for those who enjoy well-done, food-inspired movies is Chocolat, starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. When Vianne and her illegitimate daughter move to a small town in France and open a chocolaterie, they stir up the quiet, stagnant life of the community. The sensuality and lusciousness of both the chocolates and the romances that ensue are palpable. A slightly older film now, it remains a timeless treasure.