REMEMBER that delicious film “The Lunchbox” by Indian filmmaker Ritesh Batra? Now he is in London, where his film from a novel by Julian Barnes tells us about Tony (Jim Broadbent) who has a tiny shop in London where he repairs cameras, particularly Leicas.
Divorced from Margaret (Dame Harriet Walter), Tony gets a letter telling him that Sara Ford (Emily Mortimer), mother of his university girlfriend Veronica, has bequeathed to him the diary kept by his best friend at Cambridge who dated Veronica after she and Tony parted ways.
The plot moves between Tony’s university days and maturity when he and Margaret await the birth of their first grandchild from their lesbian unmarried daughter Susie (Michelle Dockery). It introduces more letters, to which the film doesn’t make us privy – not yet, anyway. It introduces minor characters of various relevance while building up to its main course, as it were.
What main course? Bring the adult Veronica on. Pre-release publicity blazons Charlotte Rampling’s name across the posters. Why are we being made to wait to enjoy the appearance of this superb actress and splendid woman? Tony has to wait as well. When the pair meet, we see that Veronica’s brittle personality hasn’t softened since she was holding Tony’s youthful testosterone at bay. Veronica isn’t letting the diary leave her possession. She’s burned it. And Tony learns that she has a son. Aha! Who’s the father?
Avoiding cliché, the film leaves us comfortable with its treatment of small-scale domestic issues. Its tensions may be low-level, its conflicts may be slender, but a first-rate cast makes it work for our benefit.
At Palace Electric, Capitol 6 and Dendy