Starring: Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard, Cyril Raymond
Director: David Lean
Running Time: 85 mins
Brief Encounter is a British film about a woman who finds herself tempted into a passionate affair after a chance meeting at a railway station.
More than just a romantic drama, Brief Encounter is a powerfully atmospheric film that brilliantly blends romantic emotion with fascinating and unnerving tension. Furthered by David Lean’s striking directing and some dynamic cinematography, it’s an eye-catching watch right the way through.
At its core, the film tells the story of a woman falling into a whirlwind affair with a dashing gentleman she meets one day at a train station. It’s a simple story that offers up some pleasant romance throughout, but the film’s real punch comes in the form of our leading lady’s fear of being found out.
In that, Brief Encounter unfolds more in the vein of a Hitchockian thriller than a typical romantic drama, and delivers brilliant tension as a result. While Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard are delightful together as two married people finding a bit of excitement in their lives, the film’s overwhelming sense of paranoia makes it a strikingly atmospheric watch.
From a mysterious opening scene where there’s far more going on than the film lets on, Brief Encounter ingeniously hooks you into an unnerving tightrope walk that sees the walls close in on a blossoming but doomed romance.
David Lean’s directing plays a big part in that, with clever use of structure and style to give the film that Hitchcockian atmosphere, particularly as he brilliantly ties together the events of the affair and our leading lady’s confession in non-linear order. Meanwhile, the film’s bold cinematography only deepens that sense of unease throughout, from its strikingly dark, shadowy visuals to dynamic and tension-filled camerawork.
With all of that, Brief Encounter proves a captivating and impressively exciting watch throughout. But not all romance is lost under the spectre of paranoia and tension, because the film also offers up some equally bold and even moving emotional themes.
From the fleeting nature of love after a chance encounter to the dilemma between loyalty and passion, and from the excitement of a secret affair to the aching realisation that things might not work out just as you dream, Brief Encounter is full of intelligent, emotionally captivating and ultimately bittersweet ideas, all of which make it all the more enthralling throughout.
It may not always a deeply passionate whirlwind, with the secret affair never quite on the level of the intensity of Hitchock’s love triangle in Notorious, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the film is full of thrilling and powerful drama throughout.
It’s visually striking, emotionally captivating and brilliantly exciting, and with excellent direction and cinematography as well as two fantastic lead performances, Brief Encounter is a gripping watch throughout, which is why I’m giving it a 7.9 overall.