Lunch Hour (1962)

Simmering tensions and sexual conflict abound in John Mortimer’s screen adaptation of his own stage play, centred around an office affair.
“A fascinating and emotional little film that slipped into UK theatres during the early days of the gritty kitchen sink realist days of British cinema.” Nathaniel Thompson, Mondo Digital, 2011 Robert Stephens and Shirley Anne Field turn in extraordinary performances as a married company executive and a young designer engaged in inventive, if frustrated, attempts to consummate their office romance. When they eventually concoct an hour alone in a hotel room, deceit invades their reality and begins to corrode their relationship. Lunch Hour was shot in just four weeks, with writer John Mortimer on set adding scenes and changing dialogue almost daily. The result was a truly visual adaptation of the original radio play, with back stories and a number of exterior scenes added – although the climactic hotel encounter remains suitably shuttered and claustrophobic. The film never achieved a major release, perhaps because of its short length or because its absurdist influences invited classification alongside European art-house cinema. Writer John Mortimer continued to investigate the extremes of human psychology in Bunny Lake is Missing (1965) and the dynamics of intimacy in the Oscar-nominated John and Mary (1969).
1962 United Kingdom
Directed by
James Hill
Produced by
John Mortimer, Harold Orton
Written by
John Mortimer
Shirley Anne Field, Robert Stephens, Kay Walsh
Running time
64 minutes