12 Days of Lesley Manville – 12: The Go-Between

Ben Batt is suitably swoonworthy but this TV adaptation of The Go-Between is perhaps just a little too steadily paced

“Could you spoon with someone without marrying them?”

LP Hartley’s The Go-Between has been adapted numerous times across TV, film and stage, most recently on the small screen by the BBC in 2015 (who opted to screen it against some little TV show on the other side, I wonder whatever happened to Downton Abbey…). Directed by Pete Travis and written by Adrian Hodges, it’s a rather swooning and sun-dappled thing that certainly takes its time over its 90 minutes.

Written in 1953 but largely set in 1900, we follow young Leo Colston during a formative summer for the 12 year old, spent at the country pile of a much wealthier school pal Marcus Maudsley. He falls ill, leaving Leo to be largely looked after by Marcus’ older sister Marian with whom he’s quickly besotted. Only problem is, she’s got her eye on the local hunky farmer rather than the local landowner lined up with an engagement ring.

Jack Hollington is excellent as the naïve young lad, equally persuaded to act as postman for Marian and Ted, passing illicit messages between them and only slowly coming to realise what is actually going on. His desire to know more about spooning is sweetly done. Joanna Vanderham is suitably brittle as Marian, unafraid to exploit the situation and Leo’s innocence but given how hot Ben Batt is as Ted (given the full Poldark treatment as he’s more often shirtless than not), you give her a pass.

For there’s an unblinking look at how thin the veneer of Victorian society is wearing. Tensions over land ownership, money, and class struggles, plus the shadows of wars gone and wars yet to come percolate powerfully – Lesley Manville as the Maudsley matriarch is ferocious in her need to maintain decorum, no matter the emotional cost for anyone around her. And Stephen Campbell Moore’s disfigured Trimingham, Marian’s intended, is achingly good as he’s forced to acknowledge where her eye lingers.

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