Brief Encounter
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  • The Original Doomed Love Affair, Beautifully Restored With a Soaring Johnson
    Long before he made his grand widescreen epics, master director David Lean made small, intimate films about normal people who find themselves outside of their comfort zones. His most famous of these early works - and arguably the gold standard by which all ill-fated love stories are compared - is this 86-minute treasure from 1946. It is the rather simple story of a chance meeting between housewife Laura Jesson and Dr. Alec Harvey in the refreshment room of a suburban London train station. The plot starts innocently enough when Alec removes some smut from Laura's eye, but then they inevitable become drawn to each other and fall in love.

    Lean employs a flashback technique to tell the story (penned by Noel Coward along with Lean and Anthony Havelock-Allan) and actually begins with the quiet farewell between Laura and Alec. From there, Laura recalls the entire story, narrating in a breathless and at times frantic voice-over. Watching the events unfold in her memory and listening to her narration, we are drawn completely into her mind as Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto floods the soundtrack. Despite their respective marital statuses, the two begin to fall in love and soon enough, romance and even lust (at least in typically stiff upper-lip British form) have shown up on the scene. After a while, they start to meet on a very regular basis and though both know it will never work, they still spend time together.

    Leave it to Lean to transcend the tendency to produce a predictably romantic and masochistic wallow and come up with a more complex set of conflicting emotions. Probably because Laura's narration is so honest and involving, this movie resonates far more than a more Baroque "chick flick" like Irving Rapper's "Now, Voyager" or Jean Negulesco's "Humoresque". Granite-jawed Trevor Howard portrays Alec with sympathy and unapologetic yearning, but it's Celia Johnson who galvanizes the film with a multi-layered performance as she makes Laura's desperation palpable but never off-putting. With her saucer eyes and emotionally pinched demeanor, she truly brings a genuine soul to this vulnerable, emotionally closeted woman who is unable to come to terms with her unconsummated affair. Providing just the right amount of comic relief are Joyce Carey as the haughty refreshment room hostess and Stanley Holloway (well before his ne'er-do-well Alfred Doolittle in "My Fair Lady") as the persistent train station attendant who constantly flirts with her.

    Criterion has once again done a superb job in bringing this movie to life as the pristine print really brings out Robert Krasker's crisp cinematography. Film historian Bruce Eder provides informative audio commentary on an alternate track and goes in-depth into not only the production but also the careers of Lean, Coward and all the actors with speaking parts. Beyond that, there is the original trailer and an interesting demonstration of the restoration process. If you have seen Claude Lelouch's "A Man and a Woman" (with Anouk Aim¨¦e and Jean-Louis Trintignant) or Ulu Grosbard's "Falling in Love" (with Robert DeNiro and Meryl Streep) or Richard Linklater's "Before Sunrise" (with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) or Sofia Coppola's "Lost in Translation" (with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson) owe yourself to see the original inspiration....more info
  • Memorable film but expensive DVD
    With all the detailed and erudite reviews of this famous film, let me merely comment that since it was released in 2000, there have been many DVDs released of many classics at a much lower price. Many of them offer much more than Criterion do here. Sure, you do get a very good restored print and commentary but on even the most assembly line Hollywood product, that is almost standard now.

    "Brief Encounter" is an exquisite film with an overwhelming performance of heart rending poignancy from Celia Johnson but the Criterion package is still too expensive....more info
  • Masterpiece
    David Lean directed this 1946 love story. It is the epitome of love stories with train stations on the background: e.g. Casablanca. The Criterion transfer is impecable.

    If you just look at the photo on the dvd cover you will know all you need about the story.

    The film is made with clockwork precision and tactfulness. I had seen this movie only one time when a kid and couldn't wait to get my hands on this edition. There's something about trains that captivates...

    Now I can't decide if I perfer -of Lean's best works- "Ryan's daughter" or "Brief Encounter".
    ...more info
  • A fim to treasure.
    This film seems so universally popular and is so highly regarded that I don't dare utter a word of criticism (I have enough negative votes already!) The story is simple and well known; Laura Jesson (Celia Johnson), a happily married woman, meets Doctor Alec Harvey (Trevor Howard), a happily married man, in a railway station refreshment-room when he extracts a piece of grit from her eye ("Trust me. I'm a doctor."). They arrange to meet the following Thursday and for several Thursdays after that, during which time they fall in love - though without getting as far as the bedroom.

    However, this being Britain in the early forties when codes of conduct really meant something, both are unwilling to break-up their lives and hurt their partners, and so, he having been offered a job in Africa, they agree to part and never see each other again. Their last few precious moments together in the tea-room are made more heart-rending by the intrusion of a silly, garrulous friend of her's who makes it impossible for him to speak another private word to her. When, therefore, the dreaded moment comes and his train arrives his only way of saying a final good-bye is by a clasp of his hand on her shoulder. This will bring tears to your eyes. For her it feels like the end of the world, and, almost suicidally depressed, she goes home to her kind but unexciting husband and her two children to suffer the pain of his loss for the rest of her life - or so she thinks. In fact the pain will lessen and his memory will become dream-like as all our painful memories do.

    The tale is cleverly told in that we are shown the end of the film at the beginning and then have the rest of it filled in in flash-back with a superbly scripted voice-over by Laura telling her story and expressing her feelings and sense of guilt. There is also a comical sub-plot involving the pretentious tea-room barmaid with a "posh" voice (Joyce Carey), and her aspiring lover, the Station-Master (Stanley Holloway).

    The haunting third movement of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 adds immensely to the emotional content of the film and is at least partially responsible for its enduring popularity (indeed where would the film be without it?); you cannot at any time listen to the concerto without thinking of the film. With its fine script and good acting and its nostalgic black and white photography of a time gone by, it delivers a unique experience and is a film to be treasured.

    And, along with so many other old films, it also brings with it another thought; the fact that these two vibrant lovers in the prime of life are both now dead makes you ponder on the sadness and transience of life and encourages you to make the most of life whilst you still have it - for "the flower that once has bloomed forever dies"....more info

  • Brief Encounter
    This subtle, heartfelt British gem will still drench most anyones Kleenex sixty years after its release. Performances by Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson are impeccable. Direction and script are suitably understated, and the use of Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto throughout the film heightens the sentiment. Even with the British reserve much in evidence, overall effect is intensely moving. Dont miss this one....more info
    watching this beautiful love story gave me very special feelings that other love stories haven't even come close to.

    the wonderful script & the language & deliverance by the the two stars goes down in the record books as the standard that other love stories should try to measure up to..

    the writers of this movie created absolutely beautiful lines that the stars delivered with grace & expert acting..

    no on screen sex,, no curse words,, no fighting,, just wonderful thoughts,, touching memories & gentleness that hasn't been duplicated..

    this movie was just shown on the best of the movie channels TCM..

    it was crisp & clear & preserved but the audio quality could have been better..

    thank you DAVID LEAN,, CELIA JOHNSON,, & TREVOR HOWARD for creating a jewel of a love story......more info
  • A film for grown-ups -- genuinely emotionally overwhelming.
    I just read the review of this DVD on and can only conclude the reviewer is relatively young, and certainly not married -- not for any length of time, anyway. He says, "I could enjoy parts of the film, and I could respect the craftsmanship, but I never could develop any real interest in the storyline or the characters."

    Oh my goodness, I couldn't disagree more. After intentionally waiting to see "Brief Encounter" for many years, I've finally watched it. I'm a married father in my mid-40's.

    The incredibly profound affection that Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson express for each other is the most convincing portrayal I have ever seen of two people in love. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan have a long way to go to convey such feelings, so powerfully. Yet the performances are, in true British fashion, reserved.

    Frankly, I found its emotionalism so effective, it very nearly brought me to tears. Call it a chick flick if you like, but this is a film for every thinking adult who has ever been conflicted over their affections and devotions. I'm looking forward to watching it again -- this time with my wife!...more info

  • Brief Encounter-A Magnificent Tear Jecker
    Based on stage play of Noel Coward. It is the story of plain house wife Laura played by Celia Johnson and GP Alec played by Trevor Howard, who met accidentally when Alec removed a piece of grit from the eye of Laura in a train station (i.e Milford Junction). Their romance blossomed and ended in matter of 7 weeks....more info
  • that moment the first awful feeling of danger swept over me
    Certainly this must rank with the great romance films. Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson, 30ish, are both happily married. By happenstance they meet and fall in love. But what to do with that love and the dilemma it creates?

    This film is very British, containing the dialogue, formalities and mores of Britain in the 40s. Some viewers may be turned off by this aspect but it is great nevertheless. The train imagery and its tie to fleeting relationships is superb. Noel Coward's script is clever, a model of well-spoken English and a pleasure to listen to. "Tell me that it's true, that it's the same with you!"

    Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 is deftly woven into the film adding emotional depth. Indeed, its theme has stuck with me for days bringing forth images from the film.

    As to the married relationships, the focus is primarily on Celia Johnson's. There is a great scene where she tries to tell her husband that she met a man, had lunch with him... When husband does not seemed concerned, she, who has obviously been agonizing over the situation, is engulfed with emotion. A moment to remember. And for those who love moments of romance, this has many....more info

  • A classic, ladies and gentlemen!
    Although Brief Encounter went for some years being disparaged by smartass comics, the film stands the test of time by virtue of the sensitive performances, Noel Coward's nearly impeccable writing, Robert Krasker's magnificent photography and David Lean's smooth direction, long before he became the Swami of the Sumptuous (River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia et al). This film brought Celia Johnson acclaim with a well-observed performance and she is matched by Trevor Howard in his best acting ever, and it was his first lead. If stories of thwarted love have appeal, here is the film others can only aspire to. Watch it and remember one's own romance....more info
  • A post-war 'Madame Bovary'.
    In 1970, David Lean's career virtually ended with the critical mauling given 'Ryan's Daughter', a bombastic reworking of 'Madame Bovary'. He had made a much more successful, unofficial adaptation of Flaubert's book, via a Noel Coward playlet, a quarter of a century earlier, with his first masterpiece, 'Brief Encounter'. Like Emma Bovary, Laura Jesson chokes in a stultifying middle-class home with an aggravatingly gentle and tolerant (read: indifferent) husband, who escapes by reading books, watching films and, eventually, having an adulterous affair.

    The first time you see 'Brief Encounter', you are most likely to be struck by its overpowering romantic qualities - in the same way Laura breaks the confines of her identity as wife, housewife and mother by loving another man, so the film's middle-class trappings (the clipped dialogue; the use of Rachmaninoff as an emotional signifier of class and taste) are burst by Lean's near-reckless visual intrusions, his violent editing and use of close-up at moments of extreme passion; the creation of awkwardly painful situations; the use of dark film noir lighting to at once swamp, threaten and ennoble this erring couple. Like Laura (see the emblematic scene where she laughs hysterically the night her son is run over, but probably first realises she's in love and her husband doesn't deserve her) - surface politeness becomes feverish, uncontrollable.

    This sense doesn't diminish on subsequent viewings - the film IS incredibly moving. But it becomes more noticeable how a critique or commentary is built into the film. It is easy to forget that we only get to see one scene of the affair that can actually be called objective - the opening sequence interrupted by Dolly - and this is characterised by what isn't seen or shown. Everything else is mediated through Laura's point of view, in a long flashback constructed as the confession to her husband she will never utter. We notice that, as a reader and film-goer, how prone to flights of fantasy she is (see the glorious travelogue montage). We see not only how many scenes feature prison-like bars (especially in the living room in which she is thinking about the romance), but how many feature windows, mirrors and screens. These are not just little boxes that confirm the confinement of Laura's life, or visual emblems of her split between duty and desire, but also little screens on which she, perhaps, projects her fantasies. She is often seen constructing stories or moods - putting on the Rachmaninoff before she reminisces; ringing up an acquaintance to cover up a lie.

    What I suggest is, Lean and Coward ask us to separate what is true about the romance and what is romanticised. It seems to be a crucial split between the mind and body. The liaison is an Ideal, a thing of the mind - though dangerous, it can be contained. But look what happens when sex rears its awkward head. The order imposed on the transgressive affair (how very English that adultery should be train-timetabled!), the formal logic in which the narrative is constructed breaks down. Firstly, Laura's voiceover is for the only time displaced by another, Alex's urging her to come to the flat; the second is her impossible knowledge of Alec's being confronted by his friend after she has run out the back way - she couldn't possibly have seen. This is when the film stops being a fantasy, and becomes truly disruptive and dangerous. The 'problem' is not the fear of adultery per se or social transgression, but a fear of sex itself.

    Because, 'Brief Encounter' is ultimately, like 'Madame Bovary' for France, a fierce critique of middle-class England, not just the way it chokes the life and imagination out of people, forcing them to replace life with second-hand romantic imagination; but the way the victims are complicit in their own imprisonment, lacking the will to escape or change. This malaise is symbolised in the grit that gets in Laura's eye (Alex, by taking it out, gives her a new way of looking at the world) or the disease-carrying soot Alec hopes to eradicate - the very atmosphere of Britain decays the soul. Maybe 'fierce' is too strong an adjective - Lean is very sympathetic to Laura's agony - but as his subsequent films prove, he was never very interested in staying still. 'Encounter' is so focused on the couple, we forget what a brilliant, funny and detailed portrait the film is of post-war, rationed, suburban England, where emotion, like money, must be strictly rationed....more info

  • David Lean's well kept secret.
    When you hear the name: David Lean, one will probably think LAWRENCE, Bridge on the River Kwai, etc...never Brief Encounter. I am not saying that Lean's other films are bad...they are excellent but Brief Encounter is different. It is his best film, as far as I am concerned. I am huge film fan. I cannot usually watch movies two days in a row, but I could watch this one every day of the year. This film is perfect in every way. Noel Coward is a brilliant screenwriter and this is one of the best screenplays ever writen. This film was voted 2nd best British film ever made under The Third Man (which I also love and Trevor Howard was also in). I am shocked that this was left off of the AFI List...a film of such perfection is so rare and underrated that it is sad that this beautiful film has been viewed by so few. Sparkling, moving preformaces given by both Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard. I love Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, but only the version in this film. I loacted a CD on this website with this version on it. It was done by Eileen Joyce. Search for her name under music and you should find it. Celia Johnson was very convincing and her voiceovers and facial expressions were superb. The way the start the film out at the end and she retells the story is brilliant. The editing is even perfect. This film is very seems as if David Lean just went out and found some two average nobody's and filmed it. This isn't like Rita Hayworth and Cary Grant in some Hollywood love story. It captures the time beautifully and how people used to have higher standards & actually cared about their families, unlike the vulgar times of now..for example, look at Titanic...enough said. I love the cinematography...capturing the smokey dark train stations with high contrast black and's so grand. This film has it's own atmosphere, like Casablanca. If you like Casablanca, you'll love this movie. I love ending because it is so mysterious-- After Laura relives her story in her mind, you can almost read it on her face and her husband goes over to comfort her: "What ever dream you had, it wasn't a very happy one, was it? You were a long way away. Thank you for coming back to me." He says it as if he heard the story while she was telling it, but then again we shall never know. It is almost haunting because I think about so often. This film my be brief, but my encounter with it will be forever....more info
  • Lean's Genius and The Stiff Upper Lip
    It is almost assuredly no coincidence that "Brief Encounter" is a 1945 film made before the curtain rang down on the world stage with the conclusion of World War Two. This film represents the Britisher David Lean at work, the first part of a phenomenal career divided into the first phase, spent at home as the master filmmaker explored things British, and a nomadic adventure in which Lean lives in hotel rooms and carved out international epics such as "Doctor Zhivago", "The Bridge on the River Kwai" and "Lawrence of Arabia."

    Prior to "Brief Encounter" Lean had directed "This Happy Breed," the story of a Southwest London family up to the advent of World War Two. The theme emphasized was repeated in "Brief Encounter," the invocation of the British "stiff upper lip" to surmount obstacles in one's path, recognition that all is not ideal in an imperfect world but summoning up determination to meet the human challenges confronting us. This attitude became a hallmark of British determined resistance in the wake of bombs falling during the great conflict known as the Battle of Britain.

    "Brief Encounter" involves the meeting and subsequent falling in love of two very typical, unremarkable middle class people who are devoted to their spouses and children. Their integrity provides pressures which do not surface with individuals lacking their levels of advanced character. Ultimately, realizing how passionately he loves Celia Johnson, the devoted housewife, the kindly doctor Trevor Howard decides to leave England with his family and join his brother, also a doctor, in South Africa. The pain of destroying his own family relationship along with that of Johnson's compels him to make an idealistic choice. To stay in England, realizing that Johnson is there as well, is too painful to bear, while the strength of passion he holds for her makes it impossible for them to form a platonic association devoid of physical and emotional pressures.

    The use of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto Number Two in C Minor serves as the perfect backdrop as Johnson ruminates narratively about her love for Howard. One of the most uniquely memorable scenes in film annals occurs when, at a time when Howard would like to say goodbye with proper affection to Johnson at the Milford Junction train station, where so much of the film's action occurs, the opportunity is destroyed with the emergence of a well-intentioned, unceasingly conversational busybody from Johnson's town who announces she will take the next train back home with her. As a result, when Howard's train arrives he is compelled to restrict himself to a properly polite verbal goodbye with an accompanying affectionate tug on the shoulder. The impact of the incident prompts Johnson to rush temporarily toward the train tracks and consider suicide.

    Another interesting element of the brilliant Noel Coward screenplay is the train station flirtations between two of Britain's foremost character performers. Joyce Carey, who runs the station snack bar, and Stanley Holloway, the local station master, engage in perpetual flirtation. Coward's successful ploy is to add a touch of levity to a story dominated by a profoundly dramatic love affair doomed to end without the level of fulfillment each party sought....more info

    Brief Encounter has recently been voted as the second best British film of all time by the British Film Institute after another movie that Criterion released in the recent months.That movie is the Third Man and the dvd quality especially the image was marvellous. Brief Encounter is pure cinema and a magnificient example of dramatic art.Trevor Howard (whom we also know from "The Third Man", Celia Johnson ( who was given the best actress award by New York Film Critics Circle) make up a perfect couple.This is one of those few movies that you can enjoy its every second and it is guaranteed to affect the first time viewer. I am sure Criterion has again done a terrific job just like it has done with The Grand Illusion, The 39 Steps or the Third Man. This edition of dvd also contains an audio commentary by Bruce Eder who was a joy to listen in the Criterion release of The Most Dangerous Game.Go buy this as soon as possible, I give you my word,you won't regret it even for a second of the movie....more info
  • One of the great love stories in film history
    A woman (Celia Johnson), on her weekly visit to London, gets a speck of cinder in her eye from a passing train; a doctor (Trevor Howard) comes to her aid. And with that we have the beginning of one of the great love stories on screen. Both are married to others, yet they continue to meet weekly at the train station. Their love blossoms, but they are "sensible" middle-class people, and when they realize it can't go on, the good doctor takes a job in South Africa.

    It's a simple story, not very much happens, yet it's poignant and moving. They have their memories (that's all they have), and we the viewers have ours of them. The message seems to be that love can happen anywhere to anyone, and though obligations and decency be elsewhere, nothing can destroy that love.

    For any one who has loved and lost, this movie can be nothing else but moving, and a great sad pleasure. A real beauty....more info
  • Simply one of the best films ever made. Beautiful.
    Brief Encounter is a classic film that turns one into a film lover. Based on a play by Noel Coward, and directed by David Lean, the pedigree of this film shows through in every respect. On face value, it's the story of a British middle-class married woman named Laura, played by Celia Johnson, who finds herself in love with a married doctor, played by Trevor Howard, during the WWII era. The story employs flashbacks and is narrated by the character Laura herself. This film hooks you from the first moment.

    Beneath the romantic plot are poignant themes...the seductiveness of mischief, the absurdity of romance, redemption, loyalty, even anarchy and the break-down of Victorian value systems. There are relatively daring ideas as well, given the era in which this film was made. Adultery, passion, deception, and even suicide are dealt with, but are handled with maturity and with respect for the characters and the audience.

    The performances are powerfully restrained and truthful, particularly that of Celia Johnson as the tortured almost-aldulteress (remember, this is 1940s England). The many smaller roles in the film are so carefully crafted and memorable, every detail is so vivid, I understand why my standards are high and why many modern films seem to leave me empty.

    The charms of Brief Encounter also include humor, inexplicably beautiful dialogue, haunting Rachmaninoff music, and cinematography at its best. If you are an anglo-phile, you'll devour the details of a train station, the station's waiting room/snack shop, a suburban household, a pharmacy and more. And if British stiff upper lip-ping is your cup of tea, well...Brief Encounter seems to have invented it.

    Although Brief Encounter is successful simply as a romance - no less than 2 hankies will do - this film is really a masterpiece to be cherished....more info

  • Beautiful beyond belief
    Any film that can draw tears from this cynical heart of mine is something very special, indeed. The simple story of two married people who meet in a train station and fall in love may sound like an unpromising premise, but it is anything but. Their brief Thursday rendezvous come to represent some of the happiest moments of their ordinary lives. Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson are exceptional; both are the epitome of British decorum and restraint yet brimming with passion and intensity just below the surface. The screenplay is nothing short of extraordinary and the use the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 was truly inspired. I will never be able to think of one without immediately thinking of the other. David Lean may always be remembered by the masses for "Lawrence of Arabia" and/or "Doctor Zhivago" but to this newly resurfaced romantic, he will always be remembered fondly for "Brief Encounter."...more info
    Written by playwright Noel Coward, directed by David Lean, starring Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard, and set to the impassioned music of Rachmaninoff's Concerto No. 2, this is a story about two people living quietly dull lives, married to equally dull spouses, who suddenly find someone interesting to share a brief encounter with. This masterful film shows how hungry normal, ordinary people are for the feeling that life is exciting, and that there is someone who finds them interesting to share it with. The normal avenue for such a relationship would have been their own spouses; but they are unable to find it there, somehow. So they find it one day, accidentally, illicitly, secretly, dishonestly, soul wrenchingly in a stranger. Now these quietly dull souls become quietly desperate souls, as they realize that stolen love comes with a price, and that what had promised to bring them boundless happiness is instead bringing them more sorrow than they have ever known before.

    I found many parallels in this movie with other quietly desperate people that I know: friends of mine who have tried to find happiness illicitly, secretly, dishonestly in work, sex, alcohol, drugs, co-dependent relationships, etc. I think this movie has a powerful message for our times. It is not about a love relationship that was doomed because of a stricter social and moral code than we have today; it is about the emptiness and madness of stolen love of any kind. I love the way the film ends, with repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation. This film is a timeless gem.

    Waitsel Smith...more info
  • Tugs the Heartstrings
    After reading about Brief Encounter and how it was one of the best movies of the 1940s, I anxiously looked forward to viewing it myself. And I was not disappointed.
    A lovely film, in classic black and white, with subtle, understated, powerful performances by Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson, it's a basic story of a man and woman meeting by chance and falling in love. The dilemma? The man, a doctor, is married. The woman is a housewife, also married. And it's the 1940s in Britain, when appearances are everything and adultery simply isn't done.
    While we never see the doctor's family, we do see the housewife, Laura's, family. Smartly, her husband is not a bad husband - -he's a nice man and she has a nice family. It's simply by chance that she meets Alex at the train station and for a month, they rendevous every Thursday.
    The story is told in flashback by Laura, as she is mentally confessing all to her husband. You feel every ounce of her pain, her torment and her indecision on what to do, thanks to Celia Johnson's flawless acting and the beautiful musical score.
    The end had me in tears and wondering "what if". A classic for other pictures to follow. Don't miss this one!
    ...more info
  • "I want to remember every minute always. Always to the end of my days."
    As David Lean's "Brief Encounter" begins, one might hear its booming musical score and see its deep and dark shadows and think a film noir was about to unfold. Imagine the surprise when the realization sets in that this is instead the beginning of one of the most well-known cinematic romances to ever hit the big screen.

    Housewife Laura Jesson (Celia Johnson) is a housewife bored with her domestic routine. One day a doctor named Alec Harvey (Trevor Howard) comes to her aid at a train station coffee shop. A friendship develops between the two and love soon blossoms as they spend more time together. Alec's treks with Laura provide her the excitement that her marriage cannot. Yet, the affair is essentially doomed from the start as circumstances keep the couple from acting upon their true feelings for one another.

    When one realizes "Brief Encounter" was released in the Forties, its significance as a film ahead of its time becomes starkly apparent. Its exploration of the illusion of domestic bliss and the psychological suffering of the bored housewife were subjects not commonly explored until later decades. Yet, despite the sense of sadness that lingers throughout "Brief Encounter," it still is passionately romantic. Middle-aged Alec and Laura may not be the most conventional big-screen couple but their love story is touching nonetheless. Full of heart and full of insight, "Brief Encounter" is as poignant today as it was when it first came out. ...more info
  • One of the most passionate movies ever made
    This is not merely my favorite David Lean film; it is one of my favorite films, period. For those who are used to David Lean from the Epic phase of his career-BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, and DOCTOR ZHIVAGO-this movie will be nothing short of a revelation. Instead of epic, the tone is intimate. Instead of a world-historical event, he focuses on a love affair that never quite comes to fruition. Personally, he makes me regret profoundly that he focused on casts of thousands, instead of casts of only a few.

    The story of the film is paradoxical. Deeply passionate, yet no sex. Love between two people married to others, but no adultery. An eternal love, but forever unfulfilled. The story of the unexpected and unintended love between two people who do not want to violate or hurt their loved ones is a story of moral and personal heroism as it is of love. The film is one of the most unique I know.

    The opening scene is shot twice. The first time you see the characters, hear dialog, but are completely unequipped to understand its significance. The second time, after the entire background has been supplied, it comes across as one of the most passion filled, and profoundly tragic scenes in all of cinema. I dare anyone not to cry a little during the second version of that scene.

    Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard were both impeccable in their roles. Like in so many great films, it is impossible to imagine anyone else playing their respective roles as well. Stanley Holloway, one of Great Britain's great character actors of the forties and fifties (who finally achieved Hollywood fame and an Oscar as Eliza Doolittle's father in MY FAIR LADY) provides comic relief as a railway worker. And if you don't currently own a copy of Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto, I promise that you will rush out to buy one after seeing this film....more info

  • They Met By Chance...
    on the subway platform when he removed a cinder from her eye, and it's that innocent beginning that sparks the intense love of Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson in Noel Coward's tour de force, "Brief Encounter".

    Celia Johnson is a happily married woman, and Trevor Howard a happily married man, but they both fall in love now with each other, even though they only meet once a week in a town she frequents for shopping and in which he substitutes in hospital for a fellow doctor. Theirs is a brief encounter, but is filled with longing, ecstasy, and heartbreak. The narration is from Celia's point of view, and captures all the heady rapture of a woman's infatuation. Trevor Howard is very appealing as the nice doctor, and displays wonderfully romantic tendencies.

    An excellent depiction of how two duty-bound people consider risking all for love, "Brief Encounter" is one of the wistfully romantic films around....more info

  • A film for grown-ups -- genuinely emotionally overwhelming.
    I just read the review of this DVD on and can only conclude the reviewer is relatively young, and certainly not married -- not for any length of time, anyway. He says, "I could enjoy parts of the film, and I could respect the craftsmanship, but I never could develop any real interest in the storyline or the characters."

    Oh my goodness, I couldn't disagree more. After intentionally waiting to see "Brief Encounter" for many years, I've finally watched it. I'm a married father in my mid-40's.

    The incredibly profound affection that Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson express for each other is the most convincing portrayal I have ever seen of two people in love. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan have a long way to go to convey such feelings, so powerfully. Yet the performances are, in true British fashion, reserved.

    Frankly, I found its emotionalism so effective, it very nearly brought me to tears. Call it a chick flick if you like, but this is a film for every thinking adult who has ever been conflicted over their affections and devotions. I'm looking forward to watching it again -- this time with my wife!...more info

  • Such human depth
    The culture in Britain and America are not as Christian as they once were and so much is missed by many on the cultural life of the forties. People have forgotten, and it wasn't that long ago.

    Celia Johnson's character, Laura, is not a bored housewife, but is a woman, who actually is an everyday housewife, who is quite committed to her family; yet has not experienced, something we deduce by the turn of events, the thrill of passionate love, which is quite different from the tragedy of Anna Karenina.

    Trevor Howard's Alec takes the lead, but it is truly Johnson's character to whom the story belongs.

    This movie is sublimely directed by David Lean, whose use of the charging train is quite powerful and symbolic. This movie is quite unique in how it is very moral, yet shows the nature of temptation in a very realistic and not stagey way or with guile, which most relational stories suffer from today. The passions are real and so is the struggle. It is so very honest.

    Adding more depth is the way in which the story stays within the bounds but allows one to travel the experience. While those who are not interested in Christian morality may find it boring or riduculous in places; and, some, whose moral guidelines won't allow the peek - will miss the point. Although, I think the depth of acting and excellent writing and cinematography succeeds for all. It provides something for contemporary people that the story of Samson or David cannot.

    For those who love soundtracks - the incidental music is Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto #2, with Eileen Joyce skillfully playing the piano and conducted by Muir Mathieson with the National Symphony Orchestra.

    This movie is in my top ten best made movies. Highly recommended. Interestingly, it won the Grand Prize at Canne in 1946.

    It fulfills precisely what John Gardner said is necessary in a story....more info
  • Phenomenal!
    I watched this DVD last night and all I can say is: bravo! Brief Encounter is a superbly crafted film with some of the most convincing performances that I've ever seen.

    Unlike many older films, Brief Encounter does not feel dated at all. The film's plot, pace, acting and use of narration are wonderfully timeless.

    The DVD transfer is pristine. It really is a miracle that a film made so long ago can be so perfectly preserved.

    Hats off to Criterion, David Lean and all of the wonderful actors in Brief Encounter!...more info

  • Brief Encounter, directed by David Lean
    The first time I saw this wonderful movie was over five years ago on PBS. The superb acting by all of the principals and the moving story of unrequited love deeply affected me.

    For several years, I searched video stories, catalogues and many other places searching for this movie in order to add it to my collection. Luckily, I found it on

    If you want to enjoy a movie about love-at-first-site, unrequited love and fabulous acting and directing - please see and/or purchase "Brief Encounter" as soon as you can. ...more info
  • When passion violently invades...
    ...The unsuspecting lives of Laura & Dr. Harvey; this video titillates the viewer by a metaphorical likening of love's passions to the steaming over, crushing power which once influenced the coal burning industrial society. Period viewers might have remembered the political power of railroad lobbyists in dividing up American lives and properties. The powerful symbol of the rushing steam locomotive is iconic.

    This classic drama, focused around coincidental liaisons, and then deliberate devices of the clandestine couple to meet one another repeatedly, revolves around a spoiler theme; that, fated was the ubiquitous `way of escape', which literally bursts in on their sneaking around, their rationalizations, and their otherwise oblivious clinging to one another.

    Filmed in England, the sculptured dialog plays out like some of the black & white comedies & dramas featuring David Niven, or the suspence and mystery of Alfred Hithcock. If you've an acquired taste for English `cheekiness' you shouldn't be disappointed. The film score incorporates a Rachmaninov piano concerto extensively. I laugh every time I hear Laura trying to summarize to her husband without actually explaining to him why she is weepy, she exclaims, "Isn't it awful about people meaning to be kind !"

    My DVD is the foreign version with the Chinese sub-titles & the only way to banish them is to select the `NO SUBTITLES' menu option....more info
  • Language: English (YES) Italian (NO)
    For "Brief Encounter - Criterion Collection" (1946)

    "Brief Encounter - Criterion Collection" is a gorgeous restoration of an exceptional and enduring work of art.

    But the Amazon product detail description of "Language: English, Italian" is incorrect. Italian audio is not an option....more info
  • A Classic of the Romantic Cinema
    Everyone who has loved and lost his/her object of affection will feel deeply touched by this little unforgettable movie. It's one of the earliest David Lean's work, but also very effective as "Doctor Zhivago" and "Lawrence of Arabia". Based on "Still Life", a play by Noel C?ward from the serie Tonight 8h30, the film is a flashback recalled by one character, after apparting from the love of her life

    Laura (Celia Johnson) and Alec (Trevor Howard) are two married ordinary people who happens to meet by chance and fall for each other later. They meet every Thursday in Milford, she goes there for shopping and the library and he goes to replace for a doctor friend os his in the local hospital. As the love affari develops in such a peace that it is impossible not to get in the mood with them, and root for the lovers.

    Lean uses many resources that he would use again in his epic films, such as the antecipation of the final result early in the opening credits. We can see Laura's and Alec's train crossing and going to different directions. After that we know we are about to watch an unfortunate love affair. I don't see it as a mistake, it made me longing to know what had led them to such an unhappy ending.

    To sum up, this is one of my favourite movies. Every time I watch it I have a different response to it. Most of them are sad, and wondering how short life can be and we more and more seem not to be prepared for some tricks of faith. I mean most of the time we have either-or questions to solve, and we are not ready to give up some things in order to get the other. Like Laura: what does she choose? Either a man she loves very much but barely knows -- and she doesn't feel brave enough to stay with him -- or her husband and children? If you were on her shoes what would you choose?...more info

    Master director David Lean's reputation undoubtedly consists mostly of his brilliance with his epic panoramas, such as the classics THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, and A PASSAGE TO INDIA. Of course those who look closely in these films will see that Lean chose only the best actors to flesh out real, true characters caught in the midst of overwhelming events--witness Peter O'Toole's vivid characterization of T. E. Lawrence and Peggy Ashcroft's beautiful, indelible Mrs Moore from A PASSAGE TO INDIA. With BRIEF ENCOUNTER, the actors are everything, too.

    The story is simple--in a very sad, post-WWII London, two married people meet by chance at a (glorious) train station and begin a friendship which slips quickly into love. The depth of their feelings is never in question, as Trevor Howard and the incandescent Celia Johnson portray these feelings honestly and without pretense, clutter, or the manneredness of modern depicitions of love. Whether the characters will be adulterers or not is important to them; they have principles and do truly care for their existing families. Again, they are two ordinary adults in the midst of something overwhelming; how they handle the situation is what gives them grace and dignity. The use of Rachmaninoff's Concerto no. 2 in C minor, especially the adagio section, was a stroke of genius. One cannot hear the piece ever again without imagining a tear streaming from Miss Johnson's large, soulful blue eyes. Fans of romance, classic cinema, or simply great acting should not miss this experience. The DVD transfer is excellent and Criterion should be applauded again for restoring a vital classic to modern audiences....more info

  • 2 stars out of 4
    The Bottom Line:

    A romantic movie whose romance is so understated it's almost not even there (even the movie's stars didn't get why their characters *mild spoiler* don't have sex), Brief Encounter may appeal to minimalists but it sure would be a lot more interesting if something actually happened; aside from the inspired black and white photography there's little to recommend about this slow and dated romance....more info