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Brief Encounter (1945) - Plot Summary Poster

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Summaries

  • At a café on a railway station, housewife Laura Jesson meets doctor Alec Harvey. Although they are both already married, they gradually fall in love with each other. They continue to meet every Thursday in the small café, although they know that their love is impossible.

  • Laura Jesson and Dr. Alec Harvey spend each Thursday in Milford - Laura running her shopping errands and catching a movie picture and Alec doing rounds at the hospital - before each boards a train at the end of the afternoon going in the opposite direction to their respective homes of Catchworth and Chorley. They meet accidentally enough in the Milford Junction refreshment room while waiting for their respective trains when Alec helps Laura remove a piece of coal dust from her eye. Over the course of a few weeks seeing each other only on Thursdays, Laura and Alec fall in love. The problem is that each is already happily married with a family, and neither wants to hurt their own spouse. Laura tries unsuccessfully to avoid meeting up with Alec as her emotional need to see him takes over. They have to decide how to deal with what looks to be a doomed but life long romance with each other, while hiding their encounters from anyone, especially their friends and acquaintances who may see them together in Milford.

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  • When Laura Jesson and Dr. Alec Harvey meet by chance at a railway station, little do they realize they will soon fall deeply in love. Laura travels to the city to shop and see a movie every Thursday and Alec soon joins her for lunch and then a film. Both are married and have children but they enjoy each others company. As they come to realize they are truly in love, they also must deal with the torment that come from the realization that any future for them is out of the question.

  • Meeting a stranger in a railway station, a woman is tempted to cheat on her husband.


Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • Brief Encounter is a classic romantic drama set in 1945 during WWII in and around the fictional Milford railway station. A married woman, with children, Laura (Celia Johnson), meets a stranger, a doctor (Trevor Howard) named Alec in the station's waiting/tea room, who kindly removes a piece of grit from her eye then leaves to catch his train. During her following shopping trips to Milford, Laura bumps into Alec and a friendship begins to develop. Soon the meetings become a fixed arrangement.

    At home in her living-room sitting with Fred, her husband (Cyril Raymond), we learn her story through the device of her voice-over telling him (and the audience) in her imagination what happened.

    As their relationship grows Alec and Laura find themselves drawn to each other and falling in love. They begin to regularly attend the cinema and visit the surrounding area during short spells of time together. Finally they exchange kisses at the railway station to confirm their feelings. Yet Laura is both uncomfortable and elated, excited by the attention of a loving man but guilty about being unfaithful to her perhaps passionless husband. Laura continues the deception and embarks on a passionate platonic extramarital affair. After much hesitation she gives in to Alec's pleas and joins him at his friend Stephen's apartment, but Stephen (Valentine Dyall) returns unexpectedly to his flat and a guilt-ridden Laura runs away. Alec later catches up with her and they agree to end the relationship but gradually rather than at once. Alec then breaks the news that he is soon to leave the country after receiving a job offer from his brother in South Africa - he asks that she meet him next week for a final rendezvous. This takes place the following Thursday, a day in the country, and a romantic but sad visit to the station waiting room where, over tea, their final goodbye is interrupted when they are joined by an acquaintance of Laura's. Alec leaves the two women stealing only a touch to Laura's shoulder as he goes to catch his train. This scene was played out to open the film as a teaser, but now we have learned of its significance. Laura is devastated and has an emotional meltdown when she returns home to her husband and goes back over the events in her mind. She does not share this information with Fred, but he seems to know what she has been through, and has great sympathy for her.

    We are left with the feeling that they will continue their safe, comfortable, middle-class marriage with a better understanding and appreciation in the reality of what they have.

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