The Go-Between full movie review - Breathtakingly Photographed, Poignant Version of the Hartley Classic
Pete Travis's production is visually breath-taking, with Felix Wiedemann's camera creating a prelapsarian world of turn-of-the- century Norfolk full of bright sunshine and vivid colors of green, yellow and orange.
Interior scenes are shot close to large windows flooded with light and illuminating the protagonists' faces; set- pieces such as the cricket match contrast the russet wood of the pavilion and the cricket bat with the off-white garb of the bourgeois players. Leo (Jack Hollington) and Ted Burgess (Ben Batt) are photographed in medium close-up in rolling fields, making it seem as if they inhabit the natural world around them. This use of visual imagery emphasizes the apparently unchanging qualities of the late Victorian/ Edwardian world on which, quite simply, the sun never seems to set; class-differences are firmly entrenched and everyone seems outwardly happy with their lives.
The visuals provide a suitable framework for a tale that puts the stability of this world into question as Ted Burgess conducts a clandestine love-affair with bourgeois Marian (Joanna Vanderham), who is at the same time engaged to her social equal Hugh Trimingham (Stephen Campbell Moore). Director Travis makes much of the social gulf between the two lovers: Marian inhabits a world of parties, croquet matches and formal meals, policed by her mother (Lesley Manville), while Ted leads a solitary life on the farm, caring for his horses and bringing in the hay in late summer. When the two milieux collide, after the cricket match has finished, the bourgeois characters are thoroughly uncomfortable. Mrs. Maudsley looks apprehensively round the room at Ted's social compatriots as they quaff their ale and sing songs, while Trimingham puts on an air of false bonhomie, even though it's clear he'd rather be somewhere else.
In such a socially stratified world, it's obvious that Marian and Ted's love-affair is doomed to failure. Yet neither of them appear to understand this; they prefer to write letters to one another, using Leo as their unwitting messenger. What becomes clear from Travis's production is the extent to which the adults' behavior is governed by self-interest; neither Marian nor Ted have any real concern for Leo's feelings as they repeatedly put emotional pressure on him to carry out their wishes.
Looking back on that summer fifty years later, it's hardly surprising that the adult Leo (Jim Broadbent) should view it with a jaundiced eye. It was chiefly due to Marian and Ted's machinations that Leo ended up emotionally stunted, unable to sustain a relationship to any great depth.
The ending, it must be admitted, seems a little rushed, as the adult Leo encounters the aging Marian (Vanessa Redgrave), who encourages him to set aside his resentments and start to love those around him. Shot in a series of shot/reverse shot sequences, we see Leo's stern countenance gradually relaxing as he understands the truth of Marian's words. In terms of what we have previously seen, however, it seems slightly implausible that he should undergo such a rapid change of character.
Nonetheless Travis's production ends satisfactorily with the younger and older Leo shown together in two-shot against a rural backdrop. At last it seems that Leo has come to terms with his past; it is no longer a "foreign country," as Hartley describes it at the beginning of the source-text.
This version of THE GO-BETWEEN tells the tale in a straightforward manner with due recognition of the social class-divisions that inhibit the characters' reactions. Definitely worth watching.