“I didn’t think such violent things could happen to an ordinary woman; I’ve fallen in love,” says Laura Jesson, the female lead in David Lean’s 1945 romantic drama Brief Encounter, which will be screening as part of the Palm Theatre’s Take Two Live series on Jan. 25.
So what exactly is Laura’s predicament? She’s in love; she should be thrilled. Well, not everything is that simple. Brief Encounter takes place in 1938. Laura (Celia Johnson) is a middle-class housewife, married to a kind but boring man. Every Thursday, she takes the train to another town to run some errands and maybe catch a matinée. But one day, everything changes. She meets a charismatic doctor, Alec (Trevor Howard), and the two begin a casual friendship that quickly develops into something far more scandalous. Ultimately, they must decide to either sacrifice the mundane stability of their established lives or pursue their newfound connection.
Now, Brief Encounter is far from the only film to explore the melodrama of torrid affairs, but it is one of the best. Not only does the movie boast a stellar cast and a story based on a Noel Coward play, but it is one of the earliest directing credits from David Lean, the man who would go on to helm such classics as The Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia. You can see his strong style on display here in the film’s shadowy cinematography, classical soundtrack (largely comprised of Sergei Rachmaninoff), and emotional intimacy. This isn’t some steamy Lifetime Original Movie, my friends. Lean’s domestic drama delves into issues of class, gender, and society with a psychological nuance unlike many films of its ilk.
At the time of its release, Brief Encounter amassed a slew of awards and nominations, including the 1946 Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and three Academy Award nominations for Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Since its release, it’s largely been considered one of the top British films ever made.
You can see Brief Encounter at the Palm Theatre in downtown SLO on Jan. 25, at 12:30 p.m. Take Two Live is hosted by Jim Dee and Bob Whiteford. There will be an introduction and Q&A about the film. Tickets cost $12. The Palm Theatre is located at 817 Palm St. For more information, visit thepalmtheatre.com.