A suburban woman of Milford, England, Laura (Celia Johnson) once a week travels to the city where, after shopping, she watches a film at a cinema, returning by the evening train to her conventional marriage and two children. Much of the story centers around the small tearoom, and it's mostly comical residents, near the train's waiting platform, wherein traveller's sip tea and munch on pastries.
On one such visit, Laura stands on the platform when another train, not stopping there, passes, throwing a small cinder into her eye. Inside the tearoom she asks for a glass a water to wash her eye free of the painful bit of grit, whereupon a man, Alec Harvey (Trevor Howard), stands up to help, noting that he is a doctor.
This simple event is almost forgotten until the following week the two run into each other again, this time at a busy restaurant where almost every table is taken. Accordingly, the two share a table and, later, an afternoon at the movie house. Charmed by the idealistic doctor, Laura intrigues the married Alec with her strong sense of self and her easy laugh (as he later puts it: "I love you. I love your wide eyes, the way you smile, your shyness, and the way you laugh at my jokes"). Feeling a bit guilty, the couple furtively make plans to repeat their outing the next week, but this time the doctor, who fills in once a week at the local hospital for a friend, does not show up until Laura is at the tearoom at the train station, where he hurriedly explains his absence as his train, travelling in the opposite direction as hers, arrives. The two again plan an outing the next week.
Their next venture together, a comical boating trip downstream, quickly develops into a furtive relationship, in which they both admit their love for one another. When they take a drive into the country on this penultimate meeting, however, he purposely misses his train, intending to stay at his doctor-friend's flat, into which he invites her. She refuses, returning to the station and her voyage back to Milford, but at the very last moment, rushes from her train, running through the rain to the flat in which she has left Alec. At almost the same instant she arrives, however, the friend
so that she is forced to rush out the back entrance, ashamed for what has almost
Realising the impossibility of their relationship, and the dark consequences arising in both their relationships with their spouses, he announces upon their final meeting that he will be travelling with his family to Africa, and will never see her again. Painfully, they sit together in the tearoom—which, in fact, has been the very first scene of the film—awaiting perhaps a tender goodbye, until one of Laura's chattering, suburban friends enters, and the two are unable to say anything. When Alec's train arrives he has no option but to tenderly squeeze her shoulder before disappearing forever, Laura rushing out of the tearoom as another train passes, possibly intending suicide to squelch what she describes:
She returns, however, to the tearoom, riding home with her incessantly chatting friend to suffer out the night, as she mentally repeats the events to her seemingly unaware husband, as he studies a crossword puzzle. As they are about to go up to bed, he approaches:
Fred Jesson: "You've been a long way away."Laura Jesson. "Yes."
Fred Jesson: "Thank you for coming back to me."
Brief Encounter is one of the most poignant films I have seen. I love it! :) xx