Brief Encounter


Brief Encounter

Critics Consensus

Brief Encounter adds a small but valuable gem to the Lean filmography, depicting a doomed couple's illicit connection with affecting sensitivity and a pair of powerful performance.



Total Count: 43


Audience Score

User Ratings: 11,139
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Movie Info

On a cafe at a railway station, housewife Laura Jesson meets Dr. Alec Harvey. Although they are already married, they gradually fall in love with each other. They continue to meet every Thursday on the small cafe, although they know that their love is impossible

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Trevor Howard
as Alec Harvey
Celia Johnson
as Laura Jesson
Joyce Carey
as Myrtle Bagot
Cyril Raymond
as Fred Jesson
Stanley Holloway
as Albert Godby
Everley Gregg
as Dolly Messiter
Margaret Barton
as Beryl Waters
Valentine Dyall
as Stephen Lynn
Marjorie Mars
as Mary Norton
Nuna Davey
as Mrs. Rolandson
Irene Handl
as Organist
Wilfred Babbage
as Policeman
Avis Scott
as Waitress
Jack May
as Boatman
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Critic Reviews for Brief Encounter

All Critics (43) | Top Critics (12) | Fresh (39) | Rotten (4)

Audience Reviews for Brief Encounter

  • May 19, 2018
    'Brief Encounter' grabs you from the start, with a chatterbox interrupting a man and a woman who are silently sitting together in the café of a train station, but were clearly in the middle of a conversation before she arrived. When the man (Trevor Howard) eventually departs politely for his train, he presses the shoulder of the woman (Celia Johnson) and slips out through the door. She then takes the train with her friend, who continues to talk incessantly despite her obvious signs of grief. It's at this point that director David Lean first brilliantly utilizes an interior monologue in the mind of the woman. This leads to these fantastic lines: "This can't last. This misery can't last. I must remember that and try to control myself. Nothing lasts really. Neither happiness nor despair. Not even life lasts very long. There'll come a time in the future when I shan't mind about this anymore, when I can look back and say quite peacefully and cheerfully 'how silly I was'. No, no, I don't want that time to come ever. I want to remember every minute, always, always to the end of my days." I was hooked from then on, and the film never let up. Based on a play by Noel Coward, it's very well written, and very well executed. The British production has an intelligent, indie feel to it, it's without major stars, and has nothing resembling the fanfare typical of Hollywood movies at the time. Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 provides a fantastic score, with dramatic moments, and following the ebb and flow of emotions perfectly. As you can probably guess, the pair are involved in forbidden love. After returning home to her kind but somewhat boring husband, who takes more interest in crossword puzzles than in her, she recounts the past, starting again with a brilliant bit of us listening in to her thoughts: "Fred, dear Fred. There's so much that I want to say to you. You're the only one in the world with enough wisdom and gentleness to understand. If only it was somebody else's story and not mine. As it is, you're the only one in the world that I can never tell. Never never. Because even if I waited until we were old, old people and told you then, you'd be bound to look back over the years and be hurt. And my dear, I don't want you to be hurt. You see, we're a happily married couple and let's never forget that. This is my home. You're my husband. And my children are upstairs in bed. I'm a happily married woman - or I was, rather, until a few weeks ago. This is my whole world, and it's enough, or rather, it was until a few weeks ago. But, oh, Fred, I've been so foolish. I've fallen in love. I'm an ordinary woman. I didn't think such violent things could happen to ordinary people." In telling the story, the film captures what it's like to feel yourself slowly but inexorably drawn to another person, even while knowing it's wrong, feeling guilt, and telling yourself that it can't go on. Those early innocent moments lead to those with the subtlest of sparks, and soon the two are on each other's minds throughout the week, until they might meet again each Thursday. It's honest, and far from tawdry. The pair simply fall in love, and as he puts it, "It's no use pretending that it hasn't happened because it has." It's romantic, and heartbreaking at the same time. Lean gives us several fantastic scenes on the railway platform. I also loved the one with Johnson running down the street in the rain, and another with the camera twisting to an angle as it slowly zooms in on her face when he's left. The inclusion of the relationship between an older café owner (Joyce Carey) and a night watchman (Stanley Holloway) is playful and fun, and helps provide a counterpoint to the main story. There is a lot to love here, including a powerful ending.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Mar 17, 2014
    A delicate and tearful romance that offers a surprisingly honest look into extramarital love considering when it was made, my sole objection being intrusive scenes involving secondary characters which interfere sometimes with the focus and tone of the main plotline.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Dec 28, 2013
    Lean's most intimate film and its still full of some of his best imagery. Celia Johnson's performance will break your heart.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Jun 11, 2013
    I've come to the conclusion that I've watched this film at the wrong time. It seems like a movie to view on a rainy day, while I watched this when it was sunny and I was full of energy. Therefore David Leans Brief Encounter just brought me down. While my rating isn't awful, it doesn't match what one would predict for the film that's #2 on the BFI British films list, and perhaps the most acclaimed on Leans early works. It's not only that I didn't watch this in the most suitable time on the other hand. I personally don't have empathy for characters who practically abandon their families for a love affair. So the two protagonists of this film weren't ones I was fond of. I credit this film with amazing dialogue, in it's adaption of Noel Cowards play. The thoughts and speech of Laura are realistic and relatable. You can notice this from the opening train scene. Secondly the narration is held in high regards, and rightfully. Told as a story, and begins at the near end. I'll put this title alongside Rashomon and Midnight Cowboy as a film I should rewatch the fully grasp.
    Daniel D Super Reviewer

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