Hands up who doesn't know the story of David Lean's masterful film, Brief Encounter (1945), surely the greatest cinematic love story the British have ever produced?
Well, if you don't know it, you might not want to read further, as there are big spoilers ahead, in fact THE spoiler, as I'm discussing the end of the film.
The first time I saw Brief Encounter I was just a little girl. I remember being teased because I had a bit of a crush on Fred (played by Cyril Raymond), the kindly, dull husband of Laura (Celia Johnson). The entire film plays as a flashback, as Laura sits, after dinner, with her husband, as he does the crossword and she, trying to do some mending, casts her mind back over her brief encounter with the dashing Alec (Trevor Howard).
What was I thinking, crushing on Fred? I haven't thought about that for a while, but tonight, while watching the last scene of the film, it occured to me: I've always found the Alec character a bit self-centered and a bit of a wild card, but undeniably a charming man. I couldn't blame Laura for her infatuation. But as the last, famous lines of the film were spoken, what I realized has always made me cry, as much as Laura's loss, is the depth to which her husband - dear, reliable Fred - loves her. It's quite breathtaking. In many parts of my life I have found myself having to acknowledge some truths that I knew in my childhood but have conveniently forgotten. Here was another one: the appreciation of a surpassing love.
I stand here proudly and declare, that I still love Fred!
"Whatever your dream was, it wasn't a very happy one, was it?
"Is there anything I can do to help?"
"Yes Fred, you always help."
"You've been a long way away."
"Thank you for coming back to me."