I talked about this a little on my Facebook, but wanted to just collate it here.
I’m a sucker for romances/rom-coms and the BBC recently aired The 7.39, a two part romance written by David Nicholls of One Day fame that tells the story of two otherwise-attached people who meet on a train that hate each other, love each, then find out it’s all bit more complicated than that. Though I was a bit disappointed with The 7.39, it made me go back to its spiritual predecessor, Brief Encounter, a classic and one of my favourites too. I had the luck of seeing it at the BFI a few years back and was astonished that the melodrama of the film no longer seemed so big. The emotion felt entirely appropriate to the size of the screen.
The last scene gets me every time (you can watch it below). Not so much the movement where Laura and Alec say goodbye, though that has weight too of course, but actually when Laura’s husband holds her hand and tells her: “Thank you for coming back to me.” (5ms 11s into the video). It gives a previously minor character a whole arc of understanding, grief, love and hope in a single line. As an ending to a romantic story it’s not quite happy, not quite super sad, nor is it the clear bittersweetness of something like Casablanca. It’s altogether messier and I love it for it.
I do wonder how the ending would be handled today. The voice over would probably be out (not sure how much you need it is anyway, aside from being a framing device), and the husband’s final line…can’t imagine most directors would let it go by in that two-shot, it would probably get reinforced with a oh-so-emotive close up. Shame. On the plus side, they might lose that final musical sting which feels very archaic and unnecessary and there might be a touch less whimpering.