Directed by David Lean
Written by Anthony Havelock-Allen, David Lean, and Ronald Neame from the play “Still Life” by Noel Coward (all uncredited)
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
#191 of 1001 Film You Must See Before You Die
I didn’t realize how brief the encounter really was until I watched this small masterpiece for the umpteenth time.
The story mainly takes place in flashback as Laura Jesson (Celia Johnson) sits in her living room and thinks about the man she just said goodbye to while her husband does the crossword. A recording of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 is playing in the background.
It’s a simple story. Laura goes to the nearest town every Thursday to do errands and watch a movie. Laura meets Dr. Alec Harvey (Trevor Howard) when he removes a piece of grit in her eye in a railway station tearoom. The next Thursday she gives him a seat at her table in a crowded restaurant and they go to the movies together. He asks her to meet him the following week.
After vowing not meet him, Laura is there. The movie is bad so they take an outing on the river instead. It is then that Alec confesses his love and Laura cannot deny hers. The following week Alec has borrowed a friend’s car and they go driving. At the end of the day, Alec says he is going to skip the train and wait for Laura in his friend’s empty apartment. Laura cannot stay away. But the guilt and shame is too much for her and she needs to find the strength to call things quits. With Stanley Holloway as the station master who is flirting with Joyce Carey’s tearoom operator.
Why can’t love be simple? Lean and the actors make you care about these people so much that the very British and restrained sexual tension is palpable. We can understand every move they make and root for their love while at the same time understanding why it is all wrong. The cinematography and frame composition is as beautiful as the story. Most highly recommended.
Brief Encounter was nominated for Academy Awards in the categories of Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Writing, Screenplay.