The Go-Between

Film
  • 5 out of 5 stars
(10 user reviews)
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Losey's adaptation of LP Hartley's novel is one of his more impressive later works. Together with screenwriter Harold Pinter, he creates another of his depictions of the destructive side of the English class system, as a love affair between the daughter of an affluent country family and a local farmer is tragically thwarted by prejudice and convention. Seen through the eyes of a young boy who acts as the instrument for the couple's assignations, the affair becomes the nexus for all the repression and unspoken manipulations brewing under the polite facade of an apparently civilised society; battle becomes personal on the cricket field, and the chink of teacups hides vicious whispers and plotting. It occasionally becomes a bit too precious, especially with the inserts of the grown-up go-between visiting his past haunts, but it's strong on atmosphere (the Norfolk locations are beautifully shot by Gerry Fisher), performance and moral nuance.

Release details

Duration: 116 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Joseph Losey
Screenwriter: Harold Pinter
Cast: Julie Christie
Alan Bates
Dominic Guard
Margaret Leighton
Michael Redgrave
Michael Gough
Edward Fox

Average User Rating

4.5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:8
  • 4 star:1
  • 3 star:0
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:1
LiveReviews|10
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charlotte_sometimes
tastemaker

On a trip into the attic 63 year old Leo finds the diary he wrote during the fatal summer which set his life on an unexpected course. Reopening the diary and rereading the words of his child-self brings the characters of his past back to life once more. 12-year old Leo’s is left to his own devices during his summer away at friend Marcus’s country manor when his friend appears to come down with measles. Instead of roaming the land with his friend he must entertain himself, luckily Marcus’s ‘spiff-tastic’ older sister Marion gives him a task to fill his three weeks – acting as postman between herself and farmer Ted Burgess as they have clandestine ‘business’ to discuss. Leo doesn’t realise the damage that would be caused if the contents of these letters is seen by eyes other than Marion’s or Ted’s, nor the fact that the damage will have repercussions for the next 50 years.


What’s initially baffling then quickly incredible about seeing L.P. Harley’s bildungsroman as a musical is that about 80% of the show is told through song. What’s really nuanced about this decision is how it establishes the character of young Leo. For the entire first act he does not sing whilst older Leo sings, as do all the other characters. Young Leo does not as he is still not used to the euphemism-laden language of the adults, which he coins ‘star-talk’. It forces Leo to stand-out awkwardly from the group, which is exactly how he feels. The second act opens with Leo singing, believing himself now to be fluent in ‘star-talk’, yet the prevailing sense of tragic inevitability indicates this is not the case.


The songs are wonderful, ‘Butterfly’ is a standout, the cast are all equally extraordinary and the staging magical. The set itself is carefully laid out, almost magical in its ability to be transformed to so many different settings through the lighting choices. Michael Crawford as the older Leo is magnificent as he haunts his past and endures the universal feelings of retrospective regret.


If only the story itself was as well told as its literary counterpart, certain key moments are told in a rather convoluted manner that takes away from the emotion generated by the book. On the one hand it could be said the musical does this to truly reflect the fact the events of the story are told from a child’s point of view but on the other hand it causes the true tragedy of the events Leo inadvertently caused to be undercut.


This aside The Go-Between is a spectacular and enthralling production.

4 stars

Sue

Very evocative film score and a haunting film about exploitation of a naive boy and his subsequent loss of innocence which has a profound effect on the rest of his life. You can still sense the shock in his expression as an adult.

Sue

Very evocative film score and a haunting film about exploitation of a naive boy and his subsequent loss of innocence which has a profound effect on the rest of his life. You can still sense the shock in his expression as an adult.

Diccon

My favourite film of all time. The most intensely nostalgic look at a boy's loss of innocence at the outbreak of WW1. Heart-rending and beautifully filmed, accompanied by one of the most evocative and haunting film scores.

Diccon

My favourite film of all time. The most intensely nostalgic look at a boy's loss of innocence at the outbreak of WW1. Heart-rending and beautifully filmed, accompanied by one of the most evocative and haunting film scores.

Ian

Jess, why if you hated the one so much did you bother with the film AND the book? I'd like to suggest that you have no taste but instead I will recommend that you stick with Big Brother or Coronation Street

Ian

Jess, why if you hated the one so much did you bother with the film AND the book? I'd like to suggest that you have no taste but instead I will recommend that you stick with Big Brother or Coronation Street