Brief Encounter (1945)


He's much more attractive head on. This picture makes him look ghoulish!
He's much more attractive head-on. This picture makes him look ghoulish!

Genre: Romance Drama (UK)

Starring: Celia Johnson (This Happy BreedThe Prime of Miss Jean Brodie), Trevor Howard (The Third ManBattle of Britain)

Directed By: David Lean (Doctor ZhivagoThe Bridge on the River Kwai)

Overview: A married woman recounts the affair she had with a married man as they met weekly at a train station.

Brief Encounter - one of the many 1001-listers I went into knowing absolutely nothing save the year of production - immediately peaked my interest with its opening shot. It opens like a Film Noir would, thick smoke chuffing up from a steam engine in a hazy train station, a lamp dimly overshadowed by dust and coal. Unfortunately, this is where the Noir begins and ends. The film takes a turn for the romantic as we are introduced to Laura Jesson (Celia Johnson) and Dr. Alec Harvey (Trevor Howard). The two are brooding as station employees flirt in the refreshments café. Enter a gossiping old biddy who interrupts the couple shortly before they part ways on separate trains. Laura returns home, forlorn, to her husband and children and begins reminiscing about the how she met Dr. Harvey, and the short affair they had. Laura imagines herself confessing this to the husband she loves, recounting what led up to this painful parting.

[thinking to herself while looking at her husband, Fred] Fred, dear Fred. There's so much that I want to say to you. You're the only one in the world with enough wisdom and gentleness to understand. If only it was somebody else's story and not mine. As it is, you're the only one in the world that I can never tell. Never never. Because even if I waited until we were old, old people and told you then, you'd be bound to look back over the years and be hurt. And my dear, I don't want you to be hurt. You see, we're a happily married couple and let's never forget that. This is my home. You're my husband. And my children are upstairs in bed. I'm a happily married woman - or I was, rather, until a few weeks ago. This is my whole world, and it's enough, or rather, it was until a few weeks ago. But, oh, Fred, I've been so foolish. I've fallen in love. I'm an ordinary woman. I didn't think such violent things could happen to ordinary people.
- Laura Jesson

There’s not much else to the plot. There’s no great mystery to solve. There’s no Thriller elements of crime or betrayal, and it’s fairly clear from the start that this will be a fairly twistless tale, given that it’s a bookended account of remembrance. But Brief Encounter’s simple story allows for character development, its writing is solid, the acting is adept, and the mores of the 40s shine though to show us what it was like in a different time. The lives of our two impossible lovers aren’t complicated or even all that unique – just two average people and their intense romance. For as simple as it is, Brief Encounter is still compelling, and this coming from a guy who doesn't like Romance and doesn't care much for straightforward dramas that have stuffy Brit characters. Maybe I was in the perfect mood for it, but I believed Brief Encounter. It’s simple, interesting and entertaining story, and not entirely predictable.


That be the biddy in question on the left.
That be the biddy in question on the left.

Performance: 8 Cinematography: 7 Script: 8 Plot: 7 Mood: 8

Overall Rating: 76% (Have a Short Stay)

My favorite quote, as Laura recalls a day spent at a movie she didn’t enjoy, "It was one of those noisy Musical things and I'm so sick of them."

A woman after my own heart!

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