Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Brief Encounter (1945/46)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Brief Encounter (1945/1946, UK)

In one of the greatest tearjerker films of all time by young director David Lean - a poignant, sensitively-told, restrained British story about forbidden passion in a brief platonic, extra-marital affair. Although not known until further into the film, Brief Encounter opened in the past - as a middle-aged couple met and then parted for the last time. The same scene of their final moments was played out another time at the film's downbeat conclusion after an extended full flashback:

  • there were tremendously heartbreaking circumstances for two doomed, ill-fated lovers: unsatisfied, middle-class housewife Laura (Celia Johnson) and doctor Alec (Trevor Howard) during their weekly meetings and encounters as they established an acquaintanceship
  • their first encounter was at the Milford Junction train station when he removed engine soot from her eye
The Two Illicit Lovers
First Encounter: Removing Soot From Laura's Eye
Laura and Alec
Confession of Love To Each Other
  • the soundtrack of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2
  • the scene after a boatride when they confessed their love to each other, but Laura cautioned: "We mustn't behave like this..."
  • Laura's fantasy - viewed in the train window - of being with Alex in romantic settings
  • they made an attempt at a tryst to consummate their affair, but it was interrupted and aborted
  • Alec professed his love: ("I love you, Laura. I shall love you always until the end of my life")
  • during their final day together, they were interrupted by gossipy friend Dolly Messiter (Everley Gregg) during their last, painful, repressed goodbye (both at the start and end of the film) as Alec gently placed his hand on her shoulder and disappeared forever (on a medical journey to Africa): ("I felt the touch of his hand on my shoulder for a moment. And then he walked away, away out of my life forever...Dolly still went on talking, but I wasn't listening to her. I was listening to the sound of his train starting. And it did. I said to myself: 'He didn't go. At the last minute his courage failed him; he couldn't have gone. Any minute now, he'll come back into the refreshment room pretending he's forgotten something.' I prayed for him to do that, just so that I could see him again, for an instant. (pause) But the minutes went by...")
  • the anguished Laura made a near-suicide attempt (with a mad, self-destructive urge signified by a tilted camera) when she jumped up abruptly from the table and rushed outside the tea room to the rail platform. Her internal state was externalized and stylized as disorienting and unbalanced. At the edge of the platform as the train screeched through, she contemplated throwing herself under the passing train, but lacked the courage to do so
  • in the final scene in the company of her understanding and thankful husband Fred Jesson (Cyril Raymond), he asked her: ("Whatever your dream was, it wasn't a very happy one, was it?...Is there anything I can do to help?...You've been a long way away....Thank you for coming back to me"), and she responded by weeping in his arms

Final Goodbye Between Alec and Laura at Train Station

Laura's Near-Suicide

Laura's Husband "Thank you for coming back to me"


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