The Lunchbox is visual storytelling at its best. This beautiful, poignant love story, set in contemporary, frenetic Mumbai, holds your attention from the outset. It keeps it, too. Through the honking, backfiring, spluttering gridlocked city traffic; on the crowded, chuntering passenger trains; across the broken pavements and the worn steps, a love story unfolds.
A mistaken delivery in Mumbai's celebrated lunchbox delivery system connects two lonely people, who know nothing about one another. Gradually, trust grows. Ila (Nimrat Kaur) is a lonely, neglected housewife, whose husband is cheating on her, and whose closest confidante is her unseen upstairs neighbour, Mrs Deshpande (Bharati Achrekar). Mrs Deshpande communicates through earthy exhortations and a basket, lowered and raised outside the window, containing an elaborate collection of initiatives and prompts to remedy the situation. Across the city, a lonely widower facing retirement longs for the vibrant family life of his neighbour, yet cannot cross the chasm of an emotionally frozen outsider.
The Lunchbox is both emissary and pimp. Its delectable contents evoke passion. Its aromas conjure companionship; its carefully folded notes tantalise, intrigue and comfort. Their words - like the chilli content of a much anticipated dish - also rebuke. Food is communication. Food is love - where there is none at home.
Ritesh Batra's film is comic - raising loud laughs from the audience. It's also a masterclass in emotional resonance. Saajan Fernandez (Irrfan Khan)'s reserve melts under Ila's fiery culinary magic, while Nawzu Siddiqui's Shaikh benefits more than he can possibly imagine from his boss's improved mood.