Brief Encounter (1945) - 9/10
Updated: Jan 16
It’s time for a little romance… and a whole lot more really. You’ve got to be on your toes with this one. The story is simple enough and unfolds delightfully, but the dialogue in the opening scene is rapid. We’re in a train waiting room. Tea is served and everyone is terribly friendly. Well aside maybe Myrtle at the counter who’s putting Mr Godly in his place. I won’t namecheck everyone, there’s just too many worthy bit parts that make this tick. Laura (Celia Johnson) and Dr Alec Harvey (Trevor Howard) are who we’re most concerned with. It’s clear there’s something between them, but Dolly, who gate crashes their table is clueless. She’s a gossiping acquaintance rather than someone Laura can trust. Laura has a secret you see and could do with someone to trust. Her heart is broken. Broken because Alec is leaving for Africa with his wife and children and she’s staying in England with her husband Fred and the children. Her children are a pain in the arse, I’d want to bugger off to Africa with the dishy Alec too! Fred though is a lovely man. He’s just rather fond of The Times crossword and Laura wants more than sewing by the fire of an evening. She’s happily married, tells herself this… but she’s fallen in love, with Alec. One chance meeting, then two, three, fate playing its cruel games. Alec is quite charming. He’s also full of life and it’s possibilities. An afternoon spent together is all it takes as they get to know one another and become smitten. Maybe I’m a soppy sod, but it’s lovely to watch. Even though they stand to hurt those they love and one another. Laura leads us through her daydream, talking to us as she paces the train platform, realising the danger. “You know what’s happened don’t you. I’ve fallen I love with you”. You feel Laura and Alec’s excitement. It’s whirlwind stuff. All very prim and proper, but Laura whose eyes we see everything through is floating. That is until the lies get complicated and the guilt grows. Laura’s numbness at the reality palpable. Based on a Noël Coward play, you’d expect it to be good and it really is marvellous. These characters are perfect and brought to life magnificently. Although Alec’s friend Mr Lynn is a little slimy, but I guess that’s his purpose. “It’s so easy to lie when you’re trusted implicitly. So easy and so degrading”. It’s easy to think of films of the era as old fashioned, but this feels as modern now as it would’ve 75 years ago, well as long as you ignore the men go to work, women stay at home claptrap. It’s a melancholic masterpiece.