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Brief Encounter (Criterion Collection) (1946)

Cast: Celia Johnson, Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard, more...
Director: David Lean, David Lean
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Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Criterion
Genre: Classics, Drama, Foreign, Romance, Classic Romance, Classic Drama, British Drama, Classic Drama, UK, Criterion Collection
Running Time: 86 min.
Languages: English
Subtitles: English
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Based on NoŽl Coward's play "Still Life," Brief Encounter is a romantic, bittersweet drama about two married people who meet by chance in a London railway station and carry on an intense love affair. Sentimental yet down-to-earth and set in pre-World War II England, the film follows British housewife Laura Jesson (Celia Johnson), who is on her way home, but catches a cinder in her eye. By chance, she meets Dr. Alec Harvey (Trevor Howard), who removes it for her. The two talk for a few minutes and strike immediate sparks, but they end up catching different trains. However, both return to the station once a week to meet and, as the film progresses, they grow closer, sharing stories, hopes, and fears about their lives, marriages, and children. One day, when Alec's train is late, both become frantic that they will miss each other. When they finally find each other, they realize that they are in love. But what should be a joyous realization is fraught with tragedy, since both care greatly for their families. Howard and Johnson give flawless performances as two practical, married people who find themselves in a situation in which they know they can never be happy. ~ Don Kaye, All Movie Guide


  • Audio commentary by film historian Bruce Eder
  • Restoration demonstration
  • Original theatrical trailer

GreenCine Member Reviews

An Affair to Remember by talltale May 19, 2006 - 3:46 PM PDT
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful
A deserved classic in so many ways, BRIEF ENCOUNTER--now 60 years old--tells a love story about an affair between two married-to-others (without sex, yet!) that is every bit the equal on any modern film of similar subject. Writer Noel Coward is most remembered for his witty comedies such as "Design for Living" and "Hay Fever." Yet his rich dramas such as this one, "In Which We Serve" and "This Happy Breed" are equally wonderful.

With a sublime director like David Lean at the helm (toward the end, watch the camera angle tilt askew, as Celia Johnson waits nervously in the train station cafť), every moment is full and real--with performances to match. Besides giving splendid roles to the would-be adulterers, Coward is generous and true to the clueless husband at home. And his subsidiary train-station characters, played so well by Stanley Holloway and Joyce Carey are delightful. I must be among the few senior citizens alive who had not seen this film until now; if there are any more of you out there like me, do cue.

Poignant, memorable by waukegan1 April 2, 2006 - 12:57 PM PDT
2 out of 2 members found this review helpful
The acting is the embodiment of British understatement, but the way the two leads convey the force of their bottled-up, powerful emotions amazed and touched me. I found this movie to be always interesting, realistic about the desires and the doubts of the two lovers, and impossible to predict. Right up until the end, I wasn't sure whether or not the Celia Johnson character would dump her loving but dull hubbie and run away with the (also married) Trevor Howard character. I don't think I'll ever forget this movie.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.81)
115 Votes
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