Many people would scoff and ignore an hour long mini movie adapted from a poem shown late at night on the BBC as part of National Poetry Month. However, the uniqueness of this production is exactly what drew a large audience to the story of a lunchtime meeting between ‘He’ (Alan Rickman) and his ex lover ‘She’ (Emma Thompson) as they reunite after 15 years apart – and the success of the film paved the way for its airing on BBC America in early 2012.
‘He’ is a book editor in London who leaves a sticky note on his computer should anyone wonder where he is while he is out to lunch (you get the impression that actually nobody will even notice he has gone). ‘She’ is a beautiful, successful and happily married woman who now resides in Paris with her husband, a successful novelist, and their children. The meeting goes as one would expect – awkward at first with long stretching silences while ‘He’ consumes glass after glass of wine at the Italian restaurant in Soho where they meet. Eventually after nearly a bottle and a half of wine to himself, ‘He’ begins a leisurely stroll down memory lane trying to piece together where it all went wrong for the former lovers.
However, during this romanticised reminiscing of their years together, he still manages to find time to try his hand at flirting with a young waitress who catches his eye and complains emphatically about the young businessmen who are lunching in the same establishment. The ending may seem anti-climactic to some; ‘He’ leaves to go to the bathroom where he hatches an ingenious plan to find the waitress he has been lusting over throughout lunch and ask her to marry him. However, this does not go according to plan when, instead of finding the waitress, he stumbles up to the rooftop through a fire exit where he falls asleep and wakes up some time later to find ‘She’ missing and the restaurant an empty shell in comparison to the earlier hubbub of lunchtime traffic. The metaphor is not lost – the audience can clearly see the distinction between the empty restaurant and his empty life.
There is very little dialogue throughout the 50 minute movie, instead Rickman’s character delivers a poetic monologue enabling us to see, through his eyes, the regret he feels at losing who he considers to be the love of his life. In his mind he tries to devise new ways to rekindle their old relationship despite her status as a married woman, thus offering the audience a chance to witness the dramatic ramblings and underlying sadness and loneliness he is experiencing.
The combination of Rickman and Thompson is never a bad one – the chemistry between them is always palpable and this is no exception. With what little dialogue they share it is clear that the unresolved feelings of love and lust is one sided and that ‘He’ has built up a fantasy of ‘She’ and their relationship. This short production shows that a feature length film is not necessary in order to make a significant impact upon an audience.
Best line: She: “You’re out to lunch at your own lunch”.