86 minutes of pure cinematic class, and how lucky we are that it is back on UK screens across the UK for your viewing pleasure on Valentine's Day. In some ways, this is rather an odd choice for a date movie as it is not the usual self-indulgent mush where boy meets girl, they fall in love and they end up together. Rather, this is a story of unconsummated love. Fans of Wong Kar Wei's IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE, will recognise the potent mixture of melancholy and moral correctness.
The film is based on a short story by that acerbic wit, Noel Coward - the last person we can accuse of being a delusional romantic. He tells us about Laura and Alec, both married to good but rather stiff people, who meet by chance at a railway station. They start to meet every Thursday and fall in love. But a combination of practical obstacles and old-fashioned respect for the married state prevents them from acting upon their passion. From such a simple but poignant tale, director David Lean creates one of the best-loved and most admired movies in British cinema history*. He perfectly evokes the "niceness" of small-town British life as well as the complete impossibility of conducting a clandestine relationship in such a community. The two lead actors - upon whom the movie rests almost entirely - are marvellous. And while their old-fashioned accents might sound odd to contemporary viewers at first, we are soon too engrossed in this quietly tragic affair to care about such superficialities.
BRIEF ENCOUNTER was originally released in 1946. David Lean won the Grand Prize at Cannes. Celia Johnson was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar but lost out to Olivia de Havilland in the soon-to-be-forgotten TO EACH, HIS OWN. It also lost the Best Directing and Best Screenplay Oscars to the also forgotten THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES. It wasn't even nominated for Best Picture.