Laura Jesson (Celia Johnson) is a content wife and mother living in pre-WWII England. Dr. Alec Harvey (Trevor Howard) is a husband and father residing in the same general area. The two strangers meet at a railway station when Laura gets a speck of grit in her eye and Alec kindly removes it. From there, the two sporadically run into each other. Later, they begin to meet deliberately.
An unintended romance sparks between them that is both enrapturing and unfeasible at the same time. Both Laura and Alec are devoted to their families, yet their feelings for one another are undeniable. But can their love endure when their consciences scream in resistance?
If audiences are looking for a film with all the graphics usually associated with a love affair, this is not the place to find it. In fact, the highest level of physicality between the two involves only a few stolen kisses here and there.
The true foundation of their affair is built on words. The simple, sincere and often breathtaking dialogue transforms the film into a magnificent romance that enables audiences to be swept off their feet (especially if they are female).
Laura narrates according to her side of the story; freely expressing her passions and desires as well as her fears and despairs. The narrative is told as if it were a letter addressed to her husband Fred. Though Laura knows she would never really dare tell Fred, she believes he is the only person in her life who would truly understand what she’s going through.
From director David Lean, who later went on to direct such masterpieces as “Lawrence of Arabia,” “The Bridge on the River Kwai” and “Dr. Zhivago,” comes this 1945 black and white classic romance. Based on his play entitled “Still Life,” writer Noel Coward brings “Brief Encounter” to the screen with the utmost agility.
The film’s mood is often dark and dreary for a love story. Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto is occasionally heard in the background, and the setting is usually in a train station filled with smoke and shadows. Perhaps this foreshadows their fate, but nonetheless it is a sharp contrast from the typical modern romance movies.
“Brief Encounter” is a simplistic account of a realistic love affair. It brings out all the emotions many people feel, but never express in a relationship. It is a privilege to witness this firsthand account, right up to the memorable last line.
Valentine’s Day is soon approaching, and for an unforgettable romance, “Brief Encounter” awaits.
Staff writer Marjorie Hamburger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.