Brief Encounter fuses the middle-class domestic drama with neorealism, in the form of an affair between two "ordinary" people who meet in a railway station tearoom. Despite its scandalous potential, the romance is dealt with in such a way as to make the narrative - which occurs retrospectively - ultimately feel like a studied, rather than an involuntary, act of remembrance, as if the real tragedy of the film were how easily romance is subsumed into routine: "An hour or two later, of course, everything became normal again". From this perspective, the only compromise seems to be to romanticise routine - not only do the lovers regularly meet on the woman's shopping day, but the elaboration of their feelings is identified with that of their respective routines, and shared observations of urban minutiae, to the extent that it feels as if Lean's real ambition to paint a portrait of a town, and even a national sensibility: "I believe we should all behave quite differently if we lived in a warm, sunny climate all the time - we shouldn't be so withdrawn and shy and difficult." The result is a poignant banality that manages to gesture beyond its bourgeois trappings, largely by virtue of the train station around which the narrative hangs, whose grit literally catalyses the romance, and which Lean artfully renders continuous with the coal mines that inform the man's medical philosophy - an impassioned renunciation of the "overprofessionalised and strangulated" for a preoccupation with "living conditions, hygiene and common sense."
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