I've also had a look at Rotten Tomatoes. When criticised, Brief Encounter is not criticised for its dialogue or acting or camera angles and the like, which are perfect- the complaint is mostly about the unconsummated relationship and the choice in the end. Obsolete, they say. Dated. Conservative. Even laughable.
I don't think of it that way. Yes, the 1960s have happened. The divorce laws have been reformed. The pill has been invented. Sexual relations have revolutionised. And we aren't repressed any more, at least not like Laura and Alec. Nevertheless, 2 people today may still fall in love but have to part at some point, because they each have their own emotional ties, duties and obligations and aren't willing to sacrifice everything for a passionate affair that may not guarantee happiness, because of the sense of guilt towards their children, and because of the awareness that they haven't known each other long enough and that their love is more of a passionate kind. It's not about moral values, it's about being torn between a sense of duty and guilt, and desire, which they know might only mean a general desire to get out of the humdrum of their lives, rather than true love. The film is moving because it's unsentimental and real, because Laura and Alec are 2 ordinary people who make decisions like 2 ordinary people, not like those in films and novels. Brief Encounter seems to be a response to Anna Karenina- Laura falls in love with someone else, but doesn't get into an affair and leave her husband as Anna does; Laura in a moment of desperation runs towards the train, but doesn't jump as Anna does; Laura imagines herself and Alec in a series of cliché lifted from romance films, then opens her eyes to face reality, and in the end, comes back to her family. The film is moving because it reminds us that not everyone in life decides to take a leap- most people may find life dull but remain exactly where they are. The film is moving because it reminds us that sometimes a romance, however intensely felt, isn't meant to be, and yet perhaps the experience of it is enough.
Such a beautiful film.
Some people, like the author of the article above, simply miss the point entirely.
PS: Check out this review: