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United Kingdom 1945
Directed by
David Lean
86 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Brief Encounter

Although married to other people, suburban commuters Laura Jesson (Celia Johnson) and Dr. Alec Harvey (Trevor Howard) who meet by chance on a railway platform toy with having an affair but come to their senses in the nick of time.  

Produced and written by Noel Coward, Brief Encounter is unrequited romance in the English manner (that is, moderated by a railway timetable) with the lovers expounding their moral quandry in Coward's irresistibly-fruity dialogue and Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No 2 swirling away in the background as the pair's repressed desires mount. 

Although toned down from the stage play the film actually caused a scandal in the England of its day for its depiction of marital infidelity despite the fact that the romance is never consummated. Every scene, masterfully composed by Lean is a tableau of the neurotic horrors of English manners as the pair laugh gaily at a Donald Duck cartoon or flagellate themselves verbally for their imagined wantonness in the refreshment room of the Milford Junction railway station.

FYI: If, for whatever reason, you found this florid hang-wringing appealing, then you'll want to watch the author himself as the romantic lead (opposite Johnson) in The Astonished Heart (1949) a film which makes this effort seem restrained in its preciosity.

Eric Carmen lifted the melody of the second movement of the Rachmaninoff concerto that is used here for his highly emotive 1975 hit 'All by Myself'.

There was a 1974 telemovie version of the same name starring Richard Burton and Sophia Loren (whose husband was a producer for the film) and directed by Alan Bridges that updated the story for the more permissive times but which lost most of the charm of the original in the process.




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