A nearly-perfect film for any Valentine’s Day is David Lean’s Brief Encounter, one of the most powerful romances ever filmed. Two strangers meet at an English train station. Both are happily married — one is a middle-aged doctor and the other a suburban housewife who has a speck of dust in her eye — but their encounter starts a short, illicit affair of weekly meetings near the Milford Junction train stop. From initial secret rendezvous at movie theaters to a lazy afternoon boat ride to an eventual late evening at a friend’s flat, the two fall hopelessly in love. The film is told through the housewife’s flashback narration and underscored with a moving rendition of Rachmaninov’s “Second Piano Concerto.” The plain-looking but wonderful Celia Johnson plays Laura Jesson, while Trevor Howard is Dr. Alec Harvey. Johnson’s emotional remembrances are filled with a blend of soaring secret passion and a dose of middle-class-female guilt.
Lean and screenwriter Ronald Neame adapted this touching tale from playwright Noel Coward’s one act play Still Life, and provides one of the most effective expansions of a simple one-set play into a full-scale feature film. When this tear-jerking hidden gem was finally released in the States in 1946, it received Oscar nominations for direction, actress (Johnson) and screenplay. To this day, it remains one of the most passionate, bittersweet screen romances.

About The Author

Syd Slobodnik

Syd Slobodnik has been writing for Illini Media publications since 1975: for The Daily Illini from 1975 to 1978 and from 1984 to 1988, and for buzz since 2003. Syd teaches numerous film courses at the University of Illinois in the English Department. He also cohosts a monthly television program which reviews old films that remind you of recent films you may have seen, called "If You Liked, You'll Love" on the Parkland Channel.

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