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on February 4, 2014
This movie creates a touching new twist on a story that might have come across as corny, but doesn't. Mr. Saajan (Irrfan Khan), a retiring accountant, is grieving over the death of his wife and Lla (Nimrat Kaur), a young mother, desires more attention from her husband. Lla sends her husband a special lunchbox and, by accident, the lunchbox is delivered to Mr. Saajan instead. Realizing the meal was misdirected, Lla writes a letter, places it inside the next day's lunchbox and what unfolds are sincere and beautiful messages that changes their lives.

The plot's not unique, but the writers produce an atmosphere in this script that sets it apart. Shot in Mumbai City, India, we roam through the streets and are allowed to observe the people, their traditions, their homes and their work establishments. The dialog is in English much of the time but at times in Hindu with English subtitles which immerses you further into the culture. Irrfan and Nimrat's characters have their own stories that are spectacular to watch and, once these characters start writing to each other, we see a whole new side to both.

My favorite character is Mr. Saajan. Khan creates this man who reaches out to someone who he does not even know. His role is heartbreaking to see and you feel the emotions he is experiencing. For anyone who has lost a loved one, you can really identify with his emptiness.

My favorite scene is when Mr. Saajan is watching a show that his wife had taped. He remembers watching her and watching the show that made her laugh. You see his face change as he understands the joy she got from the comedy. We see how, a moment that brought joy in the past can still bring joy now, only in a different way.

The message in this story is, “Sometimes the wrong train can bring you to the right station.” Lla is unsure what to do when she realizes the lunchbox is going to a perfect stranger. Mr. Saajan is not sure what to do when the notes start to touch his heart. So they both feel they are on the wrong train.

I give this 5 out of 5 stars and recommend this to age 11 to 18. There is use of cigarettes and subject matter that is not appropriate for younger audiences. Check it out to see what I'm talking about.

Keefer B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic. . For more reviews, go to kidsfirst dot org.
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Brace yourself. This gentle PG-rated drama has no gunshots, no car chases, no sweaty bodies and no blowie uppie stuff. It does, however, have several people to root for and a very clever premise.

An unappreciated wife prepares her husband's lunch each day but he never acknowledges the effort and planning she puts into it. One day, through some sort of clerical error, the lunch is delivered to a widower who thinks it is from the contractor who usually furnishes his meals. He eats every bite and she is gratified to see that her food is appreciated. Her husband however, says he liked the cauliflower, which wasn't in the lunch she sent.

We smile with:
* Irrfan Kahn ("Life of Pi") is the widower, soon to be retired, but delighted with the food that comes daily from the wrong cook! He wants to be left alone and has a deep fear of aging.
* Nimrat Kaur ("Peddlers") is the lovely but unappreciated wife, happy that her food is finally being enjoyed.
* Nawazuddin Siddiqui ("Liar's Dice") is the ebullient (and VERY handsome) young man hired to replace our hero when he retires. His mother says, "Sometimes the wrong train takes you to the right station."
* Nakul Vaid ("Stalker") is that unappreciative husband. He has many things on his plate, but his wife's cooking is not one of them!

Mumbai's byzantine lunch-box delivery system is famous for its efficiency. (You have to see it to believe it!) When our heroine tells the deliveryman her lunches are going to the wrong person, he tells her the system was approved by Harvard and they cannot make mistakes.

The actors switch seamlessly between Hindi and English, so if you don't see any captions, they are probably speaking English. Amazon has shipped my DVD, so I should have captions for both languages. Hurrah!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon March 29, 2014
Brace yourself. This gentle PG-rated drama has no gunshots, no car chases, no sweaty bodies and no blowie uppie stuff. It does, however, have several people to root for and a very clever premise.

An unappreciated wife prepares her husband's lunch each day but he never acknowledges the effort and planning she puts into it. One day, through some sort of clerical error, the lunch is delivered to a widower who thinks it is from the contractor who usually furnishes his meals. He eats every bite and she is gratified to see that her food is appreciated. Her husband however, says he liked the cauliflower, which wasn't in the lunch she sent.

We smile with:
* Irrfan Kahn ("Life of Pi") is the widower, soon to be retired, but delighted with the food that comes daily from the wrong cook! He wants to be left alone, but has a deep fear of aging.
* Nimrat Kaur ("Peddlers") is the lovely but unappreciated wife, happy that her food is finally being enjoyed.
* Nawazuddin Siddiqui ("Liar's Dice") is the ebullient (and VERY handsome) young man hired to replace our hero when he retires. His mother says, "Sometimes the wrong train takes you to the right station."
* Nakul Vaid ("Stalker") is that unappreciative husband. He has many things on his plate, but his wife's cooking is not one of them!

Mumbai's byzantine lunch-box delivery system is famous for its efficiency. (You have to see it to believe it!) When our heroine tells the deliveryman her lunches are going to the wrong person, he tells her the system was studied by Harvard and they don't make mistakes.

The actors switch seamlessly between Hindi and English, so if you don't see any captions, they are probably speaking English. When the DVD is available on Amazon, I'll pre-order it. I want this one in my library.
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Written and directed by Ritesh Batra, The Lunchbox (Hindi title "Dabba") is a wonderfully intimate film about two lonely people whose disparate lives are accidentally connected by the mis-delivery of a lunchbox. In the hands of a lesser director, it would've probably been merely a light romantic comedy. But in Batra's very talented hands, The Lunchbox is much, much more than that, bringing us deeply into the characters' lives and showing how sometimes it's the smallest things that can make the biggest difference.

Saajan Fernandes (marvelously played by Irrfan Khan) is a lonely accountant working in the claims department of a company in Mumbai. Middle-aged and approaching retirement, he exists more than he lives, having lost any feeling for anyone or anything since the death of his wife some years earlier. Ila (Nimrat Kaur in an equally marvelous performance) is a lonely young wife/mother who lives with her young daughter and emotionally distant husband in an apartment in Mumbai. Her only real human contact comes from her upstairs neighbor, an older woman, "Auntie" Deshpande (Bharati Achrekar), whom we never actually see but who carries on conversations with her through their open windows, chatting about their daily lives and giving advice about cooking. Wanting desperately to revive some sense of connection with her cold and indifferent husband, Ila tries to prepare special lunches for him, hoping as the old saying goes, to find a way to his heart through his stomach.

A chance of fate intervenes when Ila's specially prepared lunch mistakenly ends up being delivered to Saajan's office instead of her husband's. Although Saajan notices that something seems different about his lunch, he gives the matter little thought. He does, however, eat all of it, finding it quite delicious, and so when the lunchbox is returned to Ila that afternoon, she is surprised and delighted to find it completely empty, thinking that her husband must have enjoyed it for once. But when he comes home, he is just as cold and indifferent as ever, and only when she asks about it does he say anything, mentioning that the cauliflower was okay. Which tells her that something is amiss since the lunch she prepared didn't have any cauliflower. The next day, she prepares another lunch, this time sending it off with a note inside, telling whoever the lunch gets delivered to that he must've gotten the lunch she had prepared for her husband by mistake, but that she appreciated the fact that he had clearly enjoyed it, judging by the empty returns, and that it made her feel appreciated, if only for a little while. Reading the note, Saajan is hesitant at first, but afterwards sends back a note that that day's lunch was a bit salty. Which prompts Ila to fix something spicy for the next lunch - with a new note. Which prompts Saajan to send back a note about his having to eat a banana to dampen the heat in his mouth from the spice, mentioning off-handedly that he sees that so many people have nothing but a banana for their lunch. Gradually a correspondence between them builds as they share their observations, their thoughts and eventually their feelings, he about missing the life he had with his wife, she about the life she doesn't have with her husband.

There are a number of side-plots occurring in the film, foremost of which are Saajan's having to train an overly eager new-hire Shaikh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) as his replacement, Ila's having to deal with her father having terminal cancer and her mother's having to take care of him, and Auntie Deshpande's husband who's been in a coma for years. The real importance of these sub-plots is that through them we see how Saajan and Ila are both starting to see the world around them with new eyes, both of them coming alive again, their perspectives changing as a direct result of their chance correspondence. It is to writer/director Batra's immense credit that he imbues his film with a great deal of subtlety, little things like the sound of a particular song, the visual of a ceiling fan, the news of a random tragedy, each seen and reacted to by Saajan and Ila in their separate lives but making the point that they're both in the same world.

Another small but delightful detail is how Batra portrays Auntie Deshpande's character. You never actually see Ila's chatty upstairs neighbor though you hear her voice, hear her changing the music and looking through drawers for things. But you do see this basket she lowers to share cooking ingredients with Ila, and through the way Batra has the basket bob and weave, he gives the audience a visual feel for Auntie Deshpande's personality. I've never seen a dangling basket that manages to coax, tease, and nudge the way this one did in the film. An extraordinarily nice touch.

Important note: if you're not from India or familiar with the dabbawala system of lunchbox deliveries, I strongly suggest either googling it or looking it up on Wikipedia (from which I derived much of the following description) as it is important to fully understanding the film. It is also something of a fascinating subject in its own right. Started in Mumbai back in 1890, the dabbawala system is a complex, highly organized and remarkably reliable delivery system that collects hot food in lunch boxes (or "dabbas") from the residences of workers in the late morning, delivers the lunches to the workplace utilizing various modes of transport, predominantly bicycles and the railway trains, and returns the empty boxes back to the customer's residence that afternoon. They are also made use of by prominent meal suppliers in Mumbai where they ferry ready, cooked meals from central kitchens to the customers and back. The workers who handle the deliveries are "dabbawalas". What is also important to understand is that the chances of a lunchbox being delivered to the wrong place are on the order of once in every eight _million_ deliveries. Which is what makes the key event in "The Lunchbox" such a remarkable oddity.

In truth I only have two criticisms about the film. The first is strictly a technical one. Being an English speaker, I'm dependent on the sub-titles in films to follow what's going on, and I found that the choice of sub-title format in The Lunchbox often made them difficult to read, being very light text against what was frequently a light background. The other was what I felt was a loss of focus and pacing in the latter part of the film which made it a bit harder to follow what was going on and also felt less intimate than what came before it.

But that aside, The Lunchbox is truly something worth seeing, engaging you in a way that too few films ever do and prompting us to think about our own lives and about what really matters to us.

Highly recommended.
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on September 21, 2014
“The Lunchbox” is just what I needed. It’s a movie that not only restores my faith in the genre of feel-good dramas, but it reinforces the fact that something simple isn’t always a bad thing (and can actually be pretty powerful). From the cinematography to the acting, I can’t complain, and that’s pretty rare. But somehow, the ingredients that make up this delightful little movie never falter. There wasn’t a moment that I would’ve changed, especially when it comes to the original way our two main characters meet.

Their sweet relationship begins due to a mistake in Mumbai’s lunchbox delivery system. Ila, a young housewife, takes up the task of making her husband’s lunch each day and unexpectedly, it’s not getting to him. She spends hours and hours making a wonderful feast but it ends up going to Saajan, a widowed man who works in an office, by accident. She decides to send him a note in the lunchbox one day and they begin communicating back and forth, turning a simple mishap into something beautiful.

And honestly, it’s one of the most sincere films I’ve seen in a long time. It doesn’t feel the need to be in any way grandiose, keeping a quiet and reserved tone throughout (with some comedy sprinkled in at the perfect moments). Irrfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur (who play Saajan and Ila) are absolutely superb, playing off of each other perfectly in every scene.

And what’s even more miraculous is that all of this is coming from a first-time director. It has the style and confidence of a film made by someone with years of experience, and I have to commend Ritesh Batra on his outstanding work. It would be a crime if this doesn’t receive a nomination for ‘best foreign-language film’ at the Oscar’s this year.
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on September 28, 2014
This in an interesting movie. The all-region DVD played just fine in my relatively old DVD player. The production quality is very different from American-made movies...not filled with background music or a lot of sound, and the film is not as sharp and colorful as we are used to. Be aware that unless you understand Hindi you will have to watch it sub-titled. There is very little action, or scenery, and my husband thought it was quite "slow". However I have shared the DVD with a number of friends who agree with me that it is a very touching and worthwhile movie, and a much more realistic portrayal of life in India than...say...Bollywood movies.

BE SURE to check out disc 2, which is the movie with a commentary track. Something I read said the commentary is not subtitled, and it isn't...but it is in ENGLISH, not Hindi! An great added bonus.

I bought the movie because none of the video stores in my area bothered to get a copy. I thought the price from the Amazon seller I chose was very reasonable and my copy arrived quickly.
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Written and directed by Ritesh Batra, The Lunchbox (Hindi title "Dabba") is a wonderfully intimate film about two lonely people whose disparate lives are accidentally connected by the mis-delivery of a lunchbox. In the hands of a lesser director, it would've probably been merely a light romantic comedy. But in Batra's very talented hands, The Lunchbox is much, much more than that, bringing us deeply into the characters' lives and showing how sometimes it's the smallest things that can make the biggest difference.

Saajan Fernandes (marvelously played by Irrfan Khan) is a lonely accountant working in the claims department of a company in Mumbai. Middle-aged and approaching retirement, he exists more than he lives, having lost any feeling for anyone or anything since the death of his wife some years earlier. Ila (Nimrat Kaur in an equally marvelous performance) is a lonely young wife/mother who lives with her young daughter and emotionally distant husband in an apartment in Mumbai. Her only real human contact comes from her upstairs neighbor, an older woman, "Auntie" Deshpande (Bharati Achrekar), whom we never actually see but who carries on conversations with her through their open windows, chatting about their daily lives and giving advice about cooking. Wanting desperately to revive some sense of connection with her cold and indifferent husband, Ila tries to prepare special lunches for him, hoping as the old saying goes, to find a way to his heart through his stomach.

A chance of fate intervenes when Ila's specially prepared lunch mistakenly ends up being delivered to Saajan's office instead of her husband's. Although Saajan notices that something seems different about his lunch, he gives the matter little thought. He does, however, eat all of it, finding it quite delicious, and so when the lunchbox is returned to Ila that afternoon, she is surprised and delighted to find it completely empty, thinking that her husband must have enjoyed it for once. But when he comes home, he is just as cold and indifferent as ever, and only when she asks about it does he say anything, mentioning that the cauliflower was okay. Which tells her that something is amiss since the lunch she prepared didn't have any cauliflower. The next day, she prepares another lunch, this time sending it off with a note inside, telling whoever the lunch gets delivered to that he must've gotten the lunch she had prepared for her husband by mistake, but that she appreciated the fact that he had clearly enjoyed it, judging by the empty returns, and that it made her feel appreciated, if only for a little while. Reading the note, Saajan is hesitant at first, but afterwards sends back a note that that day's lunch was a bit salty. Which prompts Ila to fix something spicy for the next lunch - with a new note. Which prompts Saajan to send back a note about his having to eat a banana to dampen the heat in his mouth from the spice, mentioning off-handedly that he sees that so many people have nothing but a banana for their lunch. Gradually a correspondence between them builds as they share their observations, their thoughts and eventually their feelings, he about missing the life he had with his wife, she about the life she doesn't have with her husband.

There are a number of side-plots occurring in the film, foremost of which are Saajan's having to train an overly eager new-hire Shaikh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) as his replacement, Ila's having to deal with her father having terminal cancer and her mother's having to take care of him, and Auntie Deshpande's husband who's been in a coma for years. The real importance of these sub-plots is that through them we see how Saajan and Ila are both starting to see the world around them with new eyes, both of them coming alive again, their perspectives changing as a direct result of their chance correspondence. It is to writer/director Batra's immense credit that he imbues his film with a great deal of subtlety, little things like the sound of a particular song, the visual of a ceiling fan, the news of a random tragedy, each seen and reacted to by Saajan and Ila in their separate lives but making the point that they're both in the same world.

Another small but delightful detail is how Batra portrays Auntie Deshpande's character. You never actually see Ila's chatty upstairs neighbor though you hear her voice, hear her changing the music and looking through drawers for things. But you do see this basket she lowers to share cooking ingredients with Ila, and through the way Batra has the basket bob and weave, he gives the audience a visual feel for Auntie Deshpande's personality. I've never seen a dangling basket that manages to coax, tease, and nudge the way this one did in the film. An extraordinarily nice touch.

Important note: if you're not from India or familiar with the dabbawala system of lunchbox deliveries, I strongly suggest either googling it or looking it up on Wikipedia (from which I derived much of the following description) as it is important to fully understanding the film. It is also something of a fascinating subject in its own right. Started in Mumbai back in 1890, the dabbawala system is a complex, highly organized and remarkably reliable delivery system that collects hot food in lunch boxes (or "dabbas") from the residences of workers in the late morning, delivers the lunches to the workplace utilizing various modes of transport, predominantly bicycles and the railway trains, and returns the empty boxes back to the customer's residence that afternoon. They are also made use of by prominent meal suppliers in Mumbai where they ferry ready, cooked meals from central kitchens to the customers and back. The workers who handle the deliveries are "dabbawalas". What is also important to understand is that the chances of a lunchbox being delivered to the wrong place are on the order of once in every eight _million_ deliveries. Which is what makes the key event in "The Lunchbox" such a remarkable oddity.

In truth I only have two criticisms about the film. The first is strictly a technical one. Being an English speaker, I'm dependent on the sub-titles in films to follow what's going on, and I found that the choice of sub-title format in The Lunchbox often made them difficult to read, being very light text against what was frequently a light background. The other was what I felt was a loss of focus and pacing in the latter part of the film which made it a bit harder to follow what was going on and also felt less intimate than what came before it.

But that aside, The Lunchbox is truly something worth seeing, engaging you in a way that too few films ever do and prompting us to think about our own lives and about what really matters to us.

Highly recommended.
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"The Lunchbox" (2013 release from India; 105 min.) brings the story of Ila, a house wife stuck in an unhappy marriage. She makes her husband's lunch meal every day, and it gets delivered through Mumbai's famous dabbawalla (an intricate delivery systems). Somehow a mistake is made and the lunchbox is delivered not to her husband, but to Saajan, a widower. Soon Saajan and Ila start communicating back-and-forth through handwritten notes left in the lunch box. Then Ila finds out that her husband is having an affair. To tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Couple of comments: this is the feature debut of writer-director Ritesh Batra, and what a debut he gives us! Second, the movie addresses many different themes in fine fashion, including of course what constitutes true love but also true happiness. At one point Ila writes to Saajan that she wants to move to Bhutan, "because they don't have Gross Domestic Product, but Gross National Happiness, and people are always happy there". There are several parallel secondary stories in the movie, including Saajan being asked to train a newcomer at work, and also Ila's family, with aunts and uncles, and the responsibilities of taking care of older parents. Third, the movie, shot on location in Mumbai, gives a glimpse of what life is like there. I haven't had a chance to visit it yet, but would very much would like to at some point. Fourth, the acting performances, in particular from the 2 leads (the beautiful Nimrat Kaur as Ila and Irfan Khan as Saajan) are outstanding. Last but not least, there is a nice soundtrack, composed by veteran UK film composer Max Richter.

"The Lunchbox" opened this weekend at my local art-house theatre here in Cincinnati, and the matinee screening I saw this at was PACKED I am happy to say. "The Lunchbox" has all the makings of a very solid hit on the art-house theater circuit. I read somewhere that the production budget for this was less than $2 million, proving once again you don't need $100 million or a comic book super hero to make a compelling movie. If you are in the mood for something that is light years away from your standard Hollywood fare (or even Bollywood, for that matter), you will be in for a treat. "The Lunchbox" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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on July 18, 2014
THE LUNCHBOX: 2014; Written and directed by Ritesh Batra; starring Irrhan Khan (Slumdog Millionaire, Life of Pi) as Mr. Saajan Fernandes, an elder accountant about to retire; Nimrat Kaur (Peddlers) is Ila, the lonely housewife and mother; and Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Talaash, Kahaani) as Shaikh, an orphan and Fernandes’ new assistant. He quotes his ‘mother’s’ favorite expression: “Sometimes the wrong train can bring you to the right station.”

Mumbai’s Dabbawallah lunchbox system delivers home-cooked lunches to 250,000 workers each day averaging 1 mistake per 6,000,000 deliveries. Even Harvard is impressed. The film’s plot concerns that rare delivery gone wrong. But maybe it’s a miracle? The film introduces Ila, whose husband’s teal green lunchbox is accidently delivered to Saajan Fernandes’ work desk. Saajan, a widower, is pleasantly surprised with the delicious meal since he was expecting an uninspired cauliflower lunch purchased from a restaurant. But on this auspicious day the sad-eyed taciturn Saajan finds metal tiffins are filled with a variety of spicy string beans, sauces, and homemade parathas. If love has a scent, it smells of curry, coconut, and fresh bread.

Ila’s upstairs neighbor, the unseen “Auntie” Deshpande (voice by Bharati Ackrekar), lowers baskets of advice and spices to Ila via her open kitchen window. Later, when the dabbwalluh return the lunchbox, Ila is curious that the food is all gone, the tins wiped clean. Is this a sign that her husband appreciates her again? That night, when Rajeev (Nakul Vaid) returns home from ‘work’, he complains to his wife about the cauliflower lunch he ate. Now she knows that her meal went to someone else, and that person appreciated her cooking.

The plot thickens when a series of notes are exchanged between Ila and Saajan via the lunchbox. He writes her a note stating that the food was too salty. What? The next day he receives a very hotly spiced lunch. He sends her another note kindly stating that the salt was just right this time but he needed a banana to help settle his stomach. The humor and caring go back and forth between Saajan and Ila which is delightful and poignant. Unbeknownst to them, they are on journey of awakening their semi-comatose souls: Ila has a broken marriage, and Saajan’s wife has died but that does condemn them to live without happiness in the constrained world they feel caught in.

There are many little scenarios—touches of magical-realism—which reveal the coincidences that are drawing these people together: simultaneous fans spinning overhead or flies bothering them or a song sung by street children which is also heard coming from Aunties’ apartment. Meanwhile, the assistant, Shaikh, tries hard to please Saajan, eventually gaining some ground when he is asked to share Saajen ‘s food. Until then Fernandes has treated Shaikh as an irritant. But Shaikh understands love; he knows how to create family since, as an orphan, he’s had to. He has retained his sweetness for life and marvels at the incredible food Saajan gets to eat, food infused with such care.

In a touching scene, Fernandes, in a note to Ila, recounts a time when he was fixing his bike on his porch and looked through the living room window and saw his wife’s face reflected in the TV while she laughed at a favorite show. He said he looked away but now wishes he hadn’t.

The movie is close to perfect. It’s directed with restraint and fine acting. Even the voice of Auntie, though she’s never seen, is alive and full of character. Also good is Lillette Dubey (Best Marigold Hotel) as Illa’s financially strapped and depressed mother. Arrhan Khan is to Indian film what Henry Fonda or Paul Newman are to US film: all are consummate artists who get better and better at their craft as they age. The beautiful Nimrat Kaur is a marvel of subtlety, grace, and strength. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is all charm and control as he portrays a simple tender man striving to exceed societies low expectations of him. And Lillette Dubey is a national treasure and a fearless actor. Watching this movie is a master class in acting.

The Lunchbox is a slow-paced, intimate romance where ‘less is more.’ It has a subtle heart-felt emotional path where the main characters evolve through a chance encounter via the rarest dabbwallah mistake. The magic-realism is not computer generated but rather seen in the facial expressions, the whirl of a fan, the need for fresh air, and the song of the dabbwallah’s as they travel on the train home at night. Joy to us who strive beyond a boxed-in life: if you can smell it, and taste it, its sweetness can lead you to happiness. Or so I believe. This is an exceptional movie. I’m trilled that India has opened it’s Bollywood doors to of movie of this caliber. Everyone will benefit. Go rent it. It might change your life.
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on August 3, 2014
Now THIS is acting! Great story, beautifully and simply told. So much of the emotions are created in the small spaces the actors leave blank. As in the bast films, the characters grow on the viewer as the film deepens. The only odd note for me was the last scene. I'm not sure if that dangling conclusion was intentional or I missed something. It felt like there was another scene coming that was somehow now included. I'm going to have to watch the last 15 minutes again. Still, highly recommended.
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