09 November 2015

The Go-Between (starring Julie Christie and Dominic Guard)

Some years ago, one of the Sunday newspapers was giving away free DVDs. A relative collected several, and then passed them on to us. Most of them have sat in our drawer, although we found a few gems. Last night we decided to watch a 1971 production called ‘The Go-Between’. It’s based on a novel which neither of us has read, and apparently the BBC recently made a TV version which is also now available on DVD.

The story is mostly set in Edwardian England, in an upper class stately home. Twelve-year-old Leo (Dominic Guard) goes to stay with his school friend Marcus (Richard Gibson), and is at first a little overwhelmed by the size and grandeur of the house, and the formality of meals and events. He’s very much taken with Leo’s older sister Marian (Julie Christie), who’s considered beautiful, and who is also kind and generous to her brother’s friend.

In gratitude for Marian’s kindness, Leo agrees to take a note to a farmer called Ted Burgess (Alan Bates), and becomes the ‘postman’ for what are evidently love letters. Leo himself is quite naive, asking questions about pregnancies and what goes in in marital life, in a way that feels quite awkward; perhaps it was realistic for the era in which the film was portrayed.

The scenery is very attractive, the photography nicely done, the costumes lavish, the settings believable.

However, there’s really not much story. And while Julie Christie does a great job as Marion, and Alan Bates as Ted, the other characters feel stilted and two-dimensional. Leo himself has flashes of being believable, but in other places he simply seems to be delivering dialogue; and much of the dialogue is dull. Harold Pinter was apparently involved in the screenplay, so we’d expected something a bit more scintillating.

We kept watching, wondering if anything unexpected would happen, or any real resolution, but the story meandered on. Perhaps if we had been prepared for something so slow-moving we would have enjoyed it more, but although we’ve enjoyed some films from this era, we thought it could have done with significant editing. Some scenes are simply too long; our attention wandered, and I nearly dropped off to sleep a couple of times.

It’s not a bad film at all; part of me is intrigued to read the book or see the modern adaptation to see if they are more interesting. But I suspect it’s simply not my kind of thing. I would give two-and-a-half stars if I that were possible, but have no desire to see this one again.

Nonetheless, it’s highly rated by many; if you enjoy films about Edwardian England, and don’t mind the lack of much plot and the slow pace, it’s not a bad way to spend a couple of hours. It’s rated PG but I feel a 12 rating would have been more appropriate, given the content, even though there’s no violence or strong language.

Still available on both sides of the Atlantic, despite having been given away free by a Sunday paper a few years ago.

Review by copyright 2015 Sue's DVD Reviews

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