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  Lunch Hour Alone At Last
Year: 1961
Director: James Hill
Stars: Shirley Anne Field, Robert Stephens, Kay Walsh, Hazel Hughes, Michael Robbins, Nigel Davenport, Neil Culleton, Sandra Lea, Vi Stevens, Peter Ashmore
Genre: Comedy, Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: This man (Robert Stephens) has hit upon a great idea. There's this girl (Shirley Anne Field) he's been seeing from the office, a textile manufacturers, she's started in the art department while he has a minor executive role, but they have had trouble seeing each other in privacy. So he has arranged for a room in this quiet boarding house for their lunch hour so they can get down to what they really want to do, and she has gone along with it because she believes him when he says he loves her. Which is the truth, but before the hour is up he may have some thinking to do about that...

Lunch Hour was a modest British B-movie scripted by one of its most respected writers, John Mortimer, best known for his television work - Rumpole of the Bailey was his most famous creation, but he also adapted Brideshead Revisited for the small screen, which many regard as a classic of its kind. It's unlikely that anyone would consider this little item in the same way, as he adapted his own play for a work that was not much seen at the time, and not much seen thereafter; this was no lost gem, more a relic of the era for cinematic archaeologists to pore over, marvelling at its quaint views and the manner in which it resolved its drama.

For the first half we see the events that led up to the couple taking the room, how the two of them met at the office, and how every time they tried to fill up that darn lunch hour with a spot of amorous distraction - strictly kissing and cuddling here, mind you - they were continually interrupted. They go to the stock warehouse, the park, a tea room, but everywhere they simply cannot be alone, which begs the question, why not forget about the lunch break and see each other after work? For some bizarre reason this never crosses their minds, which stresses the artificiality of the conceit, as if this was all designed by Mortiimer to thwart whatever passion they ever worked up.

But that's nothing compared to the second half of the film, which is just over an hour long, where Field's English Rose turns into some kind of maniac when she hears the subterfuge that her would-be boyfriend has invented to ensure that they could have use of the room from the manageress (Kay Walsh). It's not enough that this busybody should be fobbed off with a long and involved explanation (ie. lie), but she has to keep on interrupting them too with cups of tea and worrying over the fire, and once they think they've gotten rid of her the girl (the couple are never named) asks about the big fib. As if that were not bad enough for the man, she acts as if the whole story about her travelling down from the North with their kids and leaving said kids with the battleaxe aunty (Hazel Hughes) was real - we see her visions of how awful this will be - and she throws a tantrum, hectoring the poor chap about the domestic hell he puts her through. Not only is this hard to believe, it's annoying as well, so much so that it's a relief when it's over.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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