The Lunchbox Movie Review

Featuring: Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Nawazuddin Siddiqui
Screenwriter/Director: Ritesh Batra
Movie website:
Australian release date: Thursday, 10 July 2014

Reviewer: rolanstein
Verdict: A slight but endearing little flick that plays out with restraint and delicacy.

Mr Fernandez (Irrfan Khan) is a curmudgeonly Mumbai widower on the brink of retirement as a bookkeeper. When he is mistakenly delivered a lunchbox from a neglected housewife, Ila (Nimrat Kaur), he responds with a note. They continue to correspond via the lunchbox delivery system, and a relationship develops that confronts them with their realities and fantasies, and the necessity to determine which is which.

Every working day in Mumbai, India, dabbawala (lunchbox couriers) pick up, deliver and return many thousands of multi-dish hot lunches dutifully prepared at home by housewives for their menfolk working in city offices. The famed lunch delivery system is remarkable for its efficiency. Mistakes are hardly ever made.

On-going delivery error, however, is the conceit around which the narrative is built in The Lunchbox. Easy enough to accept in terms of logic – no system is infallible. And on one hand, the device works well as a signifier of romantic stars in alignment, of fate intervening to brighten the lives of two unhappy people. On the other, however, the conceit itself wears a bit thin. Written communication modes are better suited to characters in literature than film.

That said, Irrfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur do a fine job with their roles, negotiating the gradual blossoming of their chance encounter into a plausible relationship-by-correspondence in which they open up to each other, initially tentatively. As trust and intimacy builds, they begin sharing their hopes and dreams, which seem to be entwined.

There’s a lightness of touch here, some poignant moments and serious undercurrents notwithstanding, that promises a feel-good ending. However, happy endings do not have to turn out as predictably as we’ve been conditioned to expect by Hollywood, and three cheers for that. As Mr Fernandez’ workmate Shaikh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) prophetically observes, “the wrong train can take you to the right station.” Enough said.

This is a slight but endearing little flick that plays out with restraint and delicacy. It runs out of puff before the end – there’s a sense that screenwriter/director writer Ritesh Batra didn’t know how to finish his otherwise quite well conceived and constructed tale. It’s an irresistibly charming piece, nevertheless, saved by the lead characters and the actors who play them, and affording a glimpse into the lives of ordinary people in the ever-fascinating phenomenon that is India.

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Calvary Movie Review

Featuring: Brendan Gleeson, Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Dylan Moran
Director: John Michael McDonagh
Writer: John Michael McDonagh
Movie website:
Australian release date: Thursday, July 3

Reviewer: rolanstein
Verdict: A masterfully written and performed powerhouse of a film that operates brilliantly on multiple levels.

Father James (Brendan Gleeson) is a priest in a small coastal town in Ireland who conducts himself with integrity. He is confronted with his mortality when an unseen parishioner with grievances against the Church issues him with a death threat during Confession precisely because he has done nothing wrong. Given seven days before his date with destiny at a time and place appointed by the would-be killer, Father James carries on attempting to minister to the needs of the mostly cynical and scornful locals, some of whom are suspects. His daughter Fiona’s (Kelly Reilly) arrival from the UK after a suicide attempt adds unresolved personal issues to the tumultuous moral, ethical and spiritual dilemmas he must grapple with as the days to his personal Calvary count down.

This is the second dynamite teaming of director John Michael McDonagh and actor par excellence Brendan Gleeson, the first being the terrific dark comedy, The Guard (2011). Calvary is more than a step beyond its very worthy predecessor, a masterfully written and performed powerhouse of a film that operates brilliantly on multiple levels – as a narrative, a personal quest for self-knowledge and fulfillment, a transposing of the Crucifixion to a contemporary and very mortal stage, a meditation on life…

The opening Confessional scene sets up a dramatic tension that shrills like a drawn bow, putting Father James on course for a final reckoning with his would-be killer, and ultimately, himself. Continue reading

Gardening With Soul Movie Review

Featuring: Sister Loyola Galvin
Director: Jess Feast
Writers: Jess Feast
Australian release date: Thursday, 29 May

Reviewer: Karen
Verdict: An enjoyable cinematic meditation

Gardening with Soul is a feature length documentary following a year in the garden with 90-year-old Sister Loyola Galvin. Sister Loyola’s optimism is infectious and it’s fed every day by her love of gardening. Themes of faith, aging and compassion sit alongside the practicalities of community life, issues within the Catholic Church and the importance of good compost in this intimate, funny and moving portrait of a woman approaching the end of her life.

The opening images of Gardening With Soul are of a stormy beach, with bulging rollers crashing onto a black volcanic-rock shore. We’re in The Piano territory, New Zealand, but our protagonist is no mute romantic heroine, but a diminutive ancient nun who works in her retirement in the garden of a mother-convent in Wellington.

Documentary maker Jess Feast follows Sister Loyola through four seasons in the garden, chatting with her about her life, her work and her faith. Just as the seasons won’t be hurried, neither is the pace of the film, but each moment is a pleasure, and our contemplation of the images and words becomes a kind of meditation that entirely suits the subject matter. Continue reading

The Babadook Movie Review

BABADOOK from Umbrella Entertainment on Vimeo.

Featuring: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman
Director: Jennifer Kent
Writer: Jennifer Kent
Movie website:
Australian release date: Thursday, May 22

Reviewers’ verdicts:
rolanstein: A creepy psycho-horror/thriller right out of the box – and it’s coming to get ya!
Karen: Disturbing psychological thriller

Widow Amelia (Essie Davis), who has lost her husband in traumatic circumstances six years earlier, is struggling to control her disturbed 6-year-old son Samuel (Noah Wiseman). The boy is prone to tantrums and anti-social behaviour, his dreams haunted by a monster he believes is real and coming to kill them. One night he chooses a book, “The Babadook”, for his mother to read to him before bed. She has not come across it before, and is alarmed by its frightening content and pop-out illustrations of the eponymous character. She cuts the reading session short and confiscates the book, but all too late – Samuel is already obsessed with the Babadook, convinced that it is the monster of his dreams. Amelia subsequently senses a presence in the house and when it manifests itself physically, begins to take Samuel’s monster warnings – and the Babadook – seriously.

Review 1: (rolanstein)
This highly original and genuinely unnerving Australian film is built around a storyline with faint echoes of de Maupassant (The Horla), Kafka and The Twilight Zone. Drawing on some classic horror tropes, writer/director Jennifer Kent has re-imagined the universal childhood figure of terror and menace, the bogeyman, in a new, truly nightmarish guise. Even its name, the Babadook (the sound of the creature knocking at the door: baba baba dook dook dook), is unsettling, sinister, vaguely demonic.

However, this is not a creature feature. Indeed, the film is not easily classifiable. Is it a psychological thriller? A supernatural horror flick? Well it’s either, depending on your interpretation. And neither. Continue reading

Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed Movie Review

Featuring: Eduardo Antuña, Celia Bermejo, Francesc Colomer
Director: David Trueba
Writer: David Trueba
Perth release date: Tuesday, May 6 (Perth Spanish Film Festival opener)

Reviewer: rolanstein
Verdict: Pure gold. A funny, charming, heart-warming little film that gets all the fundamentals gloriously right.

The setting is Franco’s Spain, 1966. Antonio (Javier Camara) is a bespectacled bachelor the wrong side of 35, an English teacher who uses Beatles lyrics in his lessons to the bemusement of his mostly underwhelmed and uncomprehending class. When he learns that John Lennon is acting in a film being shot in rustic Almeria, he sets off in his cramped bomb of a car for the small town where the crew and cast are staying, hoping to meet his idol. En route, he picks up two runaways, 20-year-old Belen (Natalia de Molina), who is pregnant and burdened by the prospect of facing her family, and teenager Juanjo (Francesc Colomer), who has hit the road after defying his conservative, overbearing father’s demands that he cut his hair. The unlikely trio are drawn together by Antonio’s lively demeanour, warmth and solicitude, and end up finding rough lodgings in the small village where Lennon is rumoured to be. Antonio’s dream to meet his idol, which is thwarted by security and other obstacles, becomes a joint mission.

Beatles aficionados will recognise the title of the film as a line from the enigmatic and wondrous Strawberry Fields Forever. Lennon wrote the song in Almeria – a strawberry-growing area – during the shooting of the anti-war movie, How I Won The War (although popular belief has it that the song references a Liverpool graveyard named Strawberry Fields). Lennon’s film acting venture made headlines in Spain at the time, and this story of an obsessed fan’s pilgrimage is based on real events.

Those weary of 60s nostalgia, fear not: there’s nary a flower child to be seen in this little gem – actually, it’s a solid gold nugget – and Lennon does not figure as a character, appearing only once from a distance, acoustic guitar in hand. He’s a vague presence, the holy grail of the quest that drives the narrative. Continue reading