Masterpiece Contemporary: The Song of Lunch
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Masterpiece Contemporary: The Song of Lunch

Saturday, October 20 at 11:00 p.m.

What could possibly go wrong when two ex-lovers meet for lunch at their favorite haunt from years before? Lots.

Emma Thompson ("Sense and Sensibility") and Alan Rickman ("Harry Potter") take that risk in this funny, bittersweet drama, adapted from Christopher Reid’s captivating narrative poem.

During its recent UK broadcast, "The Song of Lunch" delighted critics, with The Guardian (London) calling it “quietly moving, clever, beautiful, sad, and true. Just wonderful.” The Times (London) was also charmed: “It is as accomplished as anything you are ever likely to watch—rich and dense and minutely observed, accurate and unusual and superbly performed.”

Rickman’s character (neither is named) instigates the mid-day rendezvous. He is a morose, middle-aged copyeditor with a book publisher in London. Fifteen years earlier, Thompson’s outgoing character left him for a wildly successful author, and she now lives a happily-married family life in Paris.

Over glasses of Chianti and grappa (mostly imbibed by him), the complexities of their relationship emerge. An aspiring poet, he wrote a single disastrous book that is an epic retelling of their romance. In it, he plays the role of the legendry Greek poet Orpheus, while she is Orpheus’s doomed lover, Eurydice. It’s an allegory that can be easily misunderstood, especially with the poem’s theme of failed rescue of the heroine from the underworld.

However, she knows him too well to be offended. And besides, it’s all water under the bridge. Plus there is so much to talk about! And talk they do, for a surprising, provocative, and sometimes agitating lunch-hour, amid the food and bustle of a trendy Soho restaurant called Zanzotti’s, which is less rollicking that they remember from the old days. Fittingly, their date ends on a mythic note.