Subscribe to watch - 14-day free trial, then £4.99 a month

This film is certified

PG rating
  • Contains suicide references
I accept this guidance
The Passionate Friends

Title of error

See Help

The Passionate Friends PG rating

David Lean’s other, lesser known film about a love triangle spent too long in Brief Encounter’s shadow, but is now regarded as a fine, gripping drama.

Romance 1949 91 mins

Director: David Lean

Overview

Adapted by Eric Ambler from an HG Wells novel, David Lean’s subtle study of emotional turmoil is a an unfairly neglected work in the director’s filmography, largely due to its perceived similarities to Brief Encounter.

Although it’s ostensibly a similar story of repressed desires, the film expands upon the earlier work’s psychological palette of desire, guilt and denial to include jealousy, betrayal and resentment. Lean deploys a sophisticated flashback structure to explore the dark corners of a romantic triangle: Mary (Ann Todd) and her rich banker husband Howard (Claude Rains), and Stephen (Trevor Howard), whom Mary knew before she married and whom she reencounters by chance while holidaying in Switzerland. Gauging the past’s inescapable influence on the present, and alert to the ambiguities of sexually charged relationships, Lean elicits fine performances from his cast (Rains is especially good) while fashioning a gripping drama that’s almost Expressionist in its intensity. Restoration supported by The David Lean Foundation.