Starring: Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard, Stanley Holloway
Director: David Lean
Laura (Johnson) is a housewife who is relatively happy until she meets Alec (Howard), a doctor, unexpectedly at a train station. They feel an immediate and strong connection, but since they are married they can’t be together. The only time they have together are a few brief encounters at the train station cafe.
Based on a Noel Coward play called Still Life, director David Lean used the film format to tell more of the story and add further details to the source material. His film lingers over little details, fingers that barely touch, long eye contact. It also uses extensive flashback.
The power of this classic weepie is that it’s not about two people who are tempted to cheat, but more about two hearts who are meant to be together, but can’t be. Alec and Laura are honorable people, they’re not given awful spouses to justify their feelings, and so they know that the right thing to do is to not act on their feelings and destroy their families. But they do meet each other at the station. The fact that they have to be completely restrained because they are in public means that their faces are filled with aching and longing, and the knowledge that they can never be together. In this environment, little things have so much meaning.
This film garnered several Oscar nominations and won the Grand Prize of the Festival at Cannes, and it’s well deserved. It might sound a little sappy on paper, but it’s really a lovely, heart breaking film that really hits you in the feels. David Lean would later become famous for epic works like Lawrence of Arabia, but here, in this smaller, domestic drama and romance, we see his skill as a director as he gets so much out of his actors faces and what they are unable to say. A truly lovely film.
See It If: yes, it’s a drama and a weepie, but as someone who doesn’t love romance stories, this one is special.