The Go-Between movie full length review - Disappointing
This was a major disappointment compared to the novel and original film. Like most modern period dramas, it is style over substance, with stunning photography masking a misguided script and some unconvincing acting.
The earlier 1971 movie was a flawless adaptation, with Harold Pinter's script tending to say less with more, upping the tension with the slow, languid pace reflecting the heat of the summer and limited, meaningful dialog. Here, unnecessary lines are inserted as will, many not even in the novel, such as Leo's embarrassment about his old and ragged summer clothes after Marian accuses him of lying ? this is just a cheap way of garnering sympathy for the boy, and not reflective of the times it was set. Such things would have been left unsaid. It is the same through the program; everything needs to be spelt out, rather than leaving it to the actors to subtly convey.
There are poor minor plot additions such as Ted seeming defensive about being poor ? certainly not true to the book, and a far cry from Alan Bates and his worldly self confidence. Here he attempts to be brooding and moody, as oppose to charismatic and cheery but with a fiery temper, and it makes him far less likable and far less obvious why Marian would risk everything for him. Mariam herself is only passably acted, with Julie Christie an impossible act to follow. Marian's father being away is another pointless adjustment, and the production misses his steady, world weary presence, especially in the smoking room scene that was so integral to the first film. Trimmingham also loses some of his aristocratic dignity and military bearing, and the writer inexplicably takes away his fantastic line that gives him such honour and pathos: "Nothing is ever a ladies fault, Leo".
Leo himself puts in a fairly lifeless, strangely camp performance, with a certain charm combined with adolescent awkwardness which is very different from the more honest, believable performance in the film. Less attention paid to the central theme of oppressive heat, the film seems to move much quicker and out of sequence. It's also more outwardly emotional, compared to the stoicism of the film and novel, where passions are repressed and below the surface. The vital moments here are filled with shrieks and histrionics. The final meeting is too warm and pleasant ? it should have that edge of regret, memory, pain and nostalgia mixed together, the dialog has been watered down, the hint of bitterness discarded.
Unfortunately it suffers greatly by comparison, because taken by itself it is a very solid, beautifully shot production. The filming is breathtaking, with so many lovely touches including the reflection in the water scene and that wonderful final shot of older Leo against the hall and endless lawn. For people who haven't seen the original or read the book this may seem a far better film that the one I have described.