Depending on your feelings towards poetry, "Song of Lunch" will either be an interesting piece of artistry or utter gimmicky blasphemy. Based on Christopher Reid's narrative poem, "Song of Lunch" is an amazing piece of work that takes something many view as abstract or stilted, a poem, and turns it into an engaging, emotionally fueled narrative, thanks to Niall MacCormick's keen eye behind the camera and the post-"Love Actually" on-screen reunion of Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson as a former couple reuniting for an afternoon lunch, with the catch that each has an entirely separate agenda.
While MacCormick's direction is a key element why the adaptation works, there are a few choices the director makes, which provide fuel to the fire started by detractors. A large part of what poetry, or any written word for that sake, so special is an author's ability to paint a picture using words. On several occasions MacCormick shows us before our nameless narrator (Rickman) sees something for himself. For the most part, these spoiled moments don't harm the narrative in any detrimental way, except at the very end, when MacCormick chooses to show us a key image crucial to the end of the poem, completely invalidating the narrator's struggle to process what he's seeing. It ends up leaving the feature on a bit of a sour note, but in the grand scheme of things, "Song of Lunch" does far more right than wrong.
Rickman is perfectly cast as the narrator, an unnamed writer/editor who has set up a lunch with an old flame (Thompson), almost two decades after their breakup. He's a man of many regrets and an inflated ego as he, forgive the terrible pun, waxes poetic on his way to the Italian restaurant they frequented many year past. Thompson has a key role, but her overall contribution is much smaller as Rickman's internal monologue makes up the bulk of the film's spoken words, with actual verbal exchanges between the two few and far in-between, but every word they speak counts. As the alcohol flows, mostly into the narrators mouth, his true self springs forth and the boorish letch he becomes is the role Rickman often seems born to play.
Running only 50-minutes, "Song of Lunch" covers a wide swath of thematic material, covering the basics such as love, lust, and regret, but also injecting some clever meta-commentary on the role of the poet himself. Despite the dreamlike cinematography, the fantasy element of the narrators intended course of events is soon shattered and some very raw nerves are struck. It's a beautiful and ultimately very human story worth experiencing once, but as solid as the end result is, proves the simplicity of the printed page is often more powerful than the most polished and well-produced cinematic endeavor.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer has a very soft look to it, although it's clear this is an intentional choice to heighten the poetic nature of the source material. Colors are muted but natural, although the contrast levels under close scrutiny are a little off. It's a very eye-pleasing feature and the transfer reflects this fact. There is evidence stating the original aspect ratio was 2.35:1, but frankly I saw no signs of poor cropping, so if that was the case, I would say this is an open-matte transfer revealing more above and below the 2.35:1 frame.
The Dolby Digital English Stereo audio track is adequate for the narration and dialogue, although the program could have benefited greatly from a surround track given the ambience of the setting. There's not a lot to say as the overall sound mix is not very dynamic. English subtitles are included.
A finely crafted artistic exercise, "Song of Lunch" is easily accessible to fans of poetry and the cautious outsider. It's in no way, shape, or form blasphemous despite it's few missteps. Rickman and Thompson are perfectly cast in low-key but demanding roles. The most controversial aspect of the entire package would be the aspect ratio. Recommended.