https://www.youtube.com/embed/hubyFqSUaGA?feature=player_embeddedIf you want to see melodrama as good as it gets, try Brief Encounter. The film, essentially, is a riff on the infidelity cliche, “we never meant for this to happen.” Affairs are things that happen to exquisite people, and Laura and Alec, played by Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard, are painfully ordinary, decent people. He doesn’t seduce her, not deliberately anyway. The wellspring of their encounter is a simple act of kindness. There’s no one to blame; there’s not even a villain. Laura’s husband is a decent chap whom she cares about deeply. Alec isn’t coming to her rescue. When Laura and Alec meet, both are happy and content. It’s tempting to view the villain as the social context of 1945 English society, but while it’s certainly true they have their ties and obligations, there’s no palpable sense of oppression. This isn’t so much a case of forbidden love as it is simply one of unfortunate timing, of two ships passing in the night. It’s a quiet tragedy played out on a personnel level made all the more poignant for belonging to Laura and Alec alone. Nowhere is this tension felt more keenly than in the final scene. Having already determined they must part, Laura and Alec try to take solace in the few minutes they have until Alec’s train arrives, after which they will never see each other again. As fate would have it, this too is denied them as an insufferable bore Laura knows intrudes upon them, exclaiming, “what a lovely surprise.” “Oh shut up you old hag! Leave them alone!” we want to say for her.
Of the many reason to recommend Brief Encounter, none is more convincing than this Kathryn Altman quote from the Wiki: “One day, years and years ago, just after the war, [Altman] had nothing to do and he went to a theater in the middle of the afternoon to see a movie. Not a Hollywood movie: a British movie. He said the main character was not glamorous, not a babe. And at first he wondered why he was even watching it. But twenty minutes later he was in tears, and had fallen in love with her. And it made him feel that it wasn’t just a movie.” The film was Brief Encounter.