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Hammerle on ... 'Le Week-End,' 'The Lunchbox'

Robert Hammerle
May 21, 2014
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“Le Week-End”

“Le Week-End” is a psychological study of marriage. While everyone recognizes it as one of life’s great adventures, director Roger Michell’s “Le Week-End” provides the viewer with a “cause and effect” cinematic painting that resembles an autopsy done to determine cause of death.

Here we have Meg and Nick, a British married couple traveling to Paris to celebrate their 30th anniversary. Celebrate might be the wrong word, as they are attempting to find a way to get their derailed marriage back on the tracks.

hammerle-2.jpgTo begin with, Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan are mesmerizing as the married couple. He is a college professor who is hiding the fact that he has been shoved into retirement, while she is a teacher who is basically asking the time-honored question, “Is this all there is?”

As you watch them on a short, convoluted journey that interconnects love and despair, the film opens up a window into everyone’s marriage. Put another way, what if you are married to someone you consider to be both a romantic genius and a functioning fool?

One moment you see Nick and Meg kissing madly on a Parisian street and the next you see a frustrated Nick telling his wife, “Why don’t we just return to London and schedule a double suicide?” You see Meg dressing provocatively at night for a husband who barely notices, and then you see this subsequent exchange in bed:

Nick: “May I touch you?”

Meg: “Why?”

This delightful film combines moments of inspired humor with regrettable angst. The expense of Paris is of no importance to Meg, and Nick disguises the fact that his long source of income has been lost. Their laughter in restaurants leads to arguments on the street, one of them resulting in Nick tripping and falling on the pavement after being pushed by Meg. The closeness of our couple allows them to find a bit of fun even in that foolish moment.

Ironically, what adds adventure to the film is the appearance of Jeff Goldblum as Morgan, an old friend of Nick. They meet by accident on the street, and Morgan invites them to a party at his fancy condo. Neither Nick nor Meg really wants to go, but they feel they have no choice.

Morgan has recently published a best-selling book, and the party guests are professionals who clearly exist in an orbit unfamiliar to both Nick and Meg. On top of that, Morgan embodies a guy who is trying to rediscover life by having the excitement of starting over with a young wife and a new family.

Quite frankly, I have never been a fan of Goldblum, but I sense that he is resurrecting his acting career in the same fashion as Matthew McConaughey. He was wonderful in “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” and here he is a flamboyantly earnest guy who leaves Nick wondering if he should follow his path.

Everything turns on its head at this party, and it is central on determining the future of our married couple. Forced to confront their personal weaknesses, they also discover their mutual strength. Nick has Morgan’s bored, teenage son by a prior marriage to thank, and you will embrace their interplay.

In the end, “Le Week-End” is a film that will mean something to anyone who has been married for more than 20 years. No marriages are perfect, and the successful ones function as partnerships with people who are committed to each other. It is human to make mistakes, and it is also human to forgive them.

“The Lunchbox”

As I left the theater, I turned to a young woman at the counter who occasionally sells tickets and said, “I sense that everyone will embrace ‘The Lunchbox.’” A big movie fan herself, she responded, “They all say it is charming.” She was dead right.

Written and directed by Ritesh Batra, “The Lunchbox” is a captivating film contained in a very small package. It tells the age-old story of how many human beings can take the wrong train and end up at an unintended destination waiting for them with open arms.

The film centers on Ila (Nimrat Kaur), a young mother who is trying to reconnect with an obviously disinterested husband. She spends time making a special lunch for him that she sends through Mumbai’s busy lunchbox bicycle delivery system, only to have it inadvertently delivered to a stranger. Near retirement and existing in a lost world following the death of his wife, our stranger suddenly has meaning enter his life by means of a mysterious lunch ending up on his desk.

hammerle-1.jpgThe very talented Irrfan Khan stands out as Saajan Fernandes, a man who has become gradually disconnected from friends and associates. When you recall that Khan made powerful contributions as the adult Pi Patel in “Life of Pi” (2012), and the police officer who memorably helped the young boy in “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008), you have some idea of the delightful experience waiting for you if you hunt down this film.

Ila and Saajan never meet, and their entire relationship is contained in notes that they send to each other through their connecting lunchbox. Uneasy at first, she loves his handwriting as much as he loves her cooking.

There are a number of very funny moments in this film, the first involving Ila’s relationship with an aunt who lives above her in their apartment building. You never see the older woman, but only listen to their conversation through an open window. While the aunt is tending to an invalid husband, their relationship is an utterly joyful experience from the beginning.

As for Saajan, you watch him rediscover some of life’s pleasures through an unanticipated friendship with a young employee who will be replacing him upon his retirement. Initially irritated by Shaikh’s (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) honesty and sincerity, an understanding gradually develops that permeates Saajan’s lost world.

One of the many things that I found so wonderful about “The Lunchbox” was the rediscovery of the value of conversing with someone by way of a handwritten letter. That is an art that is almost lost in a world dominated by texting and emails, and it is worth remembering its value.

“The Lunchbox” is in both English and subtitles, so don’t be scared away. Maybe everyone should think about catching a train and trusting the unknown destination.•

__________

Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or working diligently in his Pennsylvania Street office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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