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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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