Movies you might have missed
IMAGE COURTESY IMDB.COM
Title: Brief Encounter (1945)
Directed: David Lean
Available on: YouTube
Brief Synopsis: Returning home from a shopping trip, bored housewife Laura Jesson (Celia Johnson) meets virtuous doctor Alec Harvey (Trevor Howard). Their casual friendship soon develops into something more.
Aggregate Scores: 8.1 IMDb 89% Rotten Tomatoes
Review: A train station can represent many things. It can be the destination of a long awaited reunion, or the point in which two paths divide forever. It can be a routine journey to work, a spontaneous adventure, freedom or restraint. These multiple meanings make a dimly lit, crowded London train station the perfect place for this classic love story to unfold.
In Brief Encounter, Laura and Alec meet by chance while waiting for their respective trains, and find out they have a lot in common. Both are respectable, upper-middle class people, with loving spouses and children back home. Laura is a stoic, dutiful housewife, and Alec is a passionate, hard-working doctor. These are the exact type of people English society looked to for building a better future after the horrors of World War II. However, none of this saves the two from being unhappy. This unhappiness allows the initial spark of friendship to become much more.
This may seem like a relatively simple plot that you may have heard before. Frankly, it is. What makes Brief Encounter special is how expertly it is written, directed and acted. The acclaimed screenwriter Noël Coward crafted a timeless story that is not ruined by the passing of time. While this film is over 70 years old, it still feels fresh and relatable. Director David Lean is better known for epics like Lawrence of Arabia, yet he creates a small universe in the train station with recurring passengers, workers and characters. Brief Encounter is a (ahem, brief) 90 minutes.
Yet the way the camera moves around the train station allows the events to unfold seamlessly, making the film feel longer in the best way possible. While the writing and directing are superb, it is the acting that really elevates this film. Johnson and Howard are perfect together. Their conversations flow so naturally that it pulls you into their dangerous affair. How often do you wish for two people to spoil their marriage and family and just get on a train together?
Besides being a timeless romance, Brief Encounter is also a fascinating look at English society. Much is made about the ‘stiff upper lip’ attitude, where emotional feelings are meant to be neglected for the good of Queen and country. This film challenges this notion, and asks the characters to decide what train (and path) they wish to travel. Will they choose love and reject social norms, or will the sense of moral duty and respectability win out? This is why it's a beloved British classic, and one that should make the long awaited journey across the pond to be a classic in Canada too.