England may not have as fine a tradition of cinematic excellence as some other European countries, I’m thinking France mainly here, but we do have a fair amount of great movies that capture our country exquisitely, and none more so than Brief Encounter. If England were ever needed to be represented by a movie to be shown to visitors from a galaxy far, far away then you couldn’t pick anything more suitable than this. It’s what I loved about this country. It’s charming, witty, and beautifully sad. It captures a country recovering from war and entering into a period of great change and the two main characters, Laura and Alec, capture this moment perfectly. Both are married, both, it would seem, love their partner, and both have fallen in love with each other. They want each other, but know the consequences of running off together are terrible in the eyes of society. It’s the eternal question, should one do what one wants or should one do what is considered right? The films follows the characters as they make their choices. Of course being English and living in the 1940s they, Alec and Laura, cannot possibly confess their love of another person to any of their friends or acquaintances, they have appearances to uphold, and that famous stiff upper lip to adhere to, so nearly everything we hear on the subject of love is from the inner monologue of Laura. It works rather well here, but it isn’t exactly the best way to tell a film and this technique would crash and burn in other films, especially ones much less charming than this.
This film, as you may or may not know, was written by one of the legends of English playwright history, Noel Coward, the Shakespeare of his day, except he’d be more likely to be found with a Martini in his hand rather than a goblet of red wine. Coward creates a beautiful script with such perfect dialogue that it left myself pining for the days when the people of this country spoke with eloquence and wit, not the bastard love-child of Dick Van Dyke and Ali G we’re left with instead. I also cannot finish this review without mentioning the director, David Lean, another shining star in English history. The direction is so perfect here that one barely even notices the lack of set-pieces and how this film really is a play at it’s heart.
Marks out of ten – Eight