David Lean is best known for his epics like LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI and DR. ZHIVAGO, however he started his career with several adaptations of Noel Coward followed by Charles Dickens. In BRIEF ENCOUNTER, we see the strong character development, which exemplifies his larger canvassed films. This film is an intimate portrait of an affair, which never feels like it was originally a play. Lean combines setting and mood perfectly to paint a heartbreaking tale of love and loss.
In a wonderful use of non-linear storytelling, the film opens with the end of the affair between Laura Jesson (Celia Johnson, IN WHICH WE SERVE) and Dr. Alec Harvey (Trevor Howard, THE THIRD MAN). The couple is disrupted by a chatty lady as they talk quietly in the café. We sense something is wrong. On the way home, Ceclia flashbacks to a few weeks prior, to when she first met Alec in that same train station café. Celia is bored with the routine of her life and finds Alec exciting. Both are married and their relationship starts off innocent until they fall in love.