10/09/2013 07:39 EDT | Updated 12/09/2013 05:12 EST

VIFF 2013 Review: The Lunchbox


Some love stories arise out of the most unusual and unexpected circumstances. Ila (Nimrat Kaur) is a stay-at-home mom who is trying to win the affections of her distant husband by preparing superb lunches for him each day. When she realizes her husband's lunch is being delivered to - and devoured by - the wrong person, she slips a note into one of the food containers. This begins a curious, and before long, beautiful ongoing letter exchange between Ila and Saajan (Irrfan Khan), a lonely widower who is on the brink of retiring after 35 years with the same accounting firm.

Failing to correct the lunch courier service, the deliveries continue and the letters become more meaningful as the two share their inner most thoughts and life experiences until an in-person meeting is inevitable. The question is, do they both have the courage to move beyond their written connection to explore what could be? Meanwhile Saajan forms a warm relationship with Shaikh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), his enthusiastic underling who is set to replace him after he retires.

Set amidst a modern Mumbai, beautifully capturing the color and energy of the city, The Lunchbox will give audiences something to smile about. Written and directed by Ritesh Batra, the story is peppered with perfectly-timed comedic moments, which balance the melancholy of the lead character. Khan is dashing - think India's answer to Tom Selleck - and a delight to watch in this follow up to his role in last year's Life of Pi. I should also mention the mouth-watering dishes, which will give you a hankering for Indian food from the moment the credits roll.

You'll like this film if... enjoy an offbeat rom-com, are fascinated with the sights and sounds of India and appreciate masterful story-telling.

You won't like this film if... prefer a solid conclusion to a story. Ritesh Batra offers only subtle hints as to the fate of the lead characters, leaving it up to the imagination of the audience to decide where the story goes next.

Standout performance

Some of the most hilarious moments of the film are thanks to a character we only know as "Auntie", Ila's aunt who regularly shouts through the vent or window from the apartment above, played brilliantly by Bharati Achrekar.

The Lunchbox is set for theatrical release in February, 2014 according to