Sep 02

“The Hundred-Foot Journey” and “The Lunchbox”: Similar Themes

“Sometimes brakes break for a reason.” The Hundred-Foot Journey

“Sometimes, the wrong train will get you to the right station.” The Lunchbox

I recently saw Lasse Hallström‘s The Hundred-Foot Journey, an enjoyable and moving (yet slight) film.

And some aspects of it happen to be quite reminiscent of another movie I saw just months ago. Like The Hundred-Foot Journey, writer/director Ritesh Batra‘s The Lunchbox (available on DVD now) has, among other similarities, a theme involving happenstance along life’s literal and metaphorical journeys (see above).

Each also each strongly features Indian culture and food.

Although The Lunchbox has received somewhat higher praise from critics and consumers alike, both have been well appreciated and—I have to say it—easily digested.

Another important facet in common is the simplicity of each story, better revealed as you watch and not so much beforehand.

Mick Lasalle, San Francisco Chronicle, sets up the plot of the more current release:

‘The Hundred-Foot Journey’ is about an Indian family that relocates to Europe with the intention of opening an Indian restaurant somewhere on the continent. Their car breaks down in rural France, and the patriarch (Om Puri) falls in love with a property that happens to be across the street from a Michelin starred restaurant. Despite the exalted competition just one hundred feet away, he decides to locate his new restaurant there, which puts him into contact with the Michelin restaurant’s stiff-backed owner, played by Helen Mirren.

“By the time ‘The Hundred-Foot Journey’ ends,” states Lasalle, “it has achieved an unexpected and rather powerful cumulative impact. I felt like I knew the people and wouldn’t mind staying there.”

The trailer:

 

Steven Rea, philly.com, lays out the basics of The Lunchbox plot

Ila (the excellent Nimrat Kaur) is married to a man who is wholly uninterested and disengaged. With encouragement from ‘Auntie,’ an upstairs neighbor we only hear, never see, Ila begins preparing elaborate lunches – you know the old saw, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. But by mistake, the dabba is delivered to Saajan (Irrfan Khan), a sad-eyed widower, an accountant at a big firm. He is surprised by his meal, and doubly surprised when another delicious lunch shows up the next day – with a note from Ila, wondering why her husband hadn’t said anything about his repast.

Saajan writes back, and so a relationship is born – the loveless woman and the man whose love has gone from his life, sharing increasingly intimate thoughts, anonymously, day after day, amazing meal after amazing meal.

Rea concludes that The Lunchbox is “an epistolary love story, a celebration of food, and a query about connection, synchronicity, fate, and chance.”

Xan Brooks, The Guardian: “Already a huge success in its native India, Ritesh Batra’s Mumbai-set romance arranges a tender marriage of Brief Encounter with Ernst Lubitsch’s The Shop Around the Corner.”

After you watch this trailer, maybe you’ll consider seeing at least one of these two enchanting movies:

Jun 27

“The Cider House Rules”: Making One’s Own Way

Well, someone who don’t live here made those rules. Those rules ain’t for us. We are supposed to make our own rules. And we do. Every single day. The Cider House Rules

Film critic Bob Graham, San Francisco Chronicle, called the award-winning and poignant 1999 film The Cider House Rules, which was adapted from John Irving‘s novel and directed by Lasse Holstrom, not only “Dickensian” but also “one dickens of an American movie.”

Quite pertinent to Minding Therapy, moreover, and adding to the above, was the review of Stephen Holden, The New York Times:

It doesn’t take a cryptographer to decipher the meanings in John Irving’s sprawling picaresque allegories. But a reader who wants to savor them must be willing to suspend a psychoanalytic view of human nature descended from Freud through Oprah and surrender to an imagination that is more Dickensian than Freudian. Once you give up those expectations, a visit to the world according to Irving is a little like touring a parallel universe where fate is determined not so much by abusive parents as by wondrous tragicomic events beyond the realm of psychology.

THE PLOT

Dr. Wilbur Larch (Michael Caine) runs an orphanage, St. Clouds. Bob Graham, San Francisco Chronicle:

Wintry St. Clouds has several kinds of clients. A few are prospective adopters who come to inspect the children — ‘I’m the best of all the kids,’ one of them declares — and occasionally leave with one. Many others come to have their babies and leave them behind, and some expectant parents come for illegal abortions. Homer Wells (Tobey Maguire) is an orphan who never found a family but grew to adulthood at St. Clouds and stayed. He now assists Larch. He knows how to deliver babies but is not a doctor. One thing he won’t assist Larch in, however, is performing abortions.

The following scene epitomizes the heartbreak of everyday decision-making at St. Cloud’s:

After a particular couple (Paul Rudd, Charlize Theron) receives abortion services at St. Clouds, Homer decides to leave with them to “see the world.” He spends years away from there, partly working alongside African American migrants at an apple orchard—the scene of the “Cider House Rules” that aren’t necessarily heeded—and off-season being a lobsterman.

While Rudd’s character is away serving his country, Homer and Theron’s character, Candy, fall in love

Other important parts of the story include an incestuous relationship perpetrated by the orchard’s crew boss and Homer’s eventual return to the orphanage.

THE TRAILER

MAIN THEMES AND PERFORMANCES, IN BRIEF

Stephen Holden, New York Times: “The need to be of use, the discovery that the official rules and real-life rules of how to behave rarely coincide — these and other life lessons that our innocent hero learns may sound like the tritest of homilies. But ‘The Cider House Rules’ gives them the depth and emotional weight of earned wisdom.”

Lisa Schwarzbaum, ew.com: “…Dr. Larch suits Caine, who, establishing the unorthodox rituals of a doctor committed to his own ethical rules (he huffs ether to tune out the world’s misery), locates the sadness and stubbornness behind the abortionist/child saver’s fervor.”

IN CONCLUSION

An opinion articulated by Stephen Holden, New York Timesabout The Cider House Rules resonates deeply with this viewer (who’s seen it several times):

…(I)t is a sustained meditation on the dream of home sweet home that gnaws at the heart of its orphaned main character Homer…as well as the hearts of the other children who grow up in St. Cloud’s…

…(G)rowing up means coming to the realization that in a cosmic sense we are all orphans.