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Summer 1900: Queen Victoria's last and the summer Leo turns 13. He's the guest of Marcus, a wealthy classmate, at a grand home in rural Norfolk. Leo is befriended by Marian, Marcus's twenty-something sister, a beauty about to be engaged to Hugh, a viscount and good fellow. Marian buys Leo a forest-green suit, takes him on walks, and asks him to carry messages to and from their neighbor, Ted Burgess, a bit of a rake. Leo is soon dissembling, realizes he's betraying Hugh, but continues as the go-between nonetheless, asking adults naive questions about the attractions of men and women. Can an affair between neighbors stay secret for long? And how does innocence end? Written by
Boy caught in Edwardian love triangle in his 13th year.
Winsome Dominic Guard plays Leo in this movie made from the novel by the famous English physician and author, L. P. Hartley.
This was the first movie made by young Guard, who was 15 years old but playing a 13 year old boy. Guard went on to a movie career ending with a role in Gandhi (1982). He carries off the role of young Leo to perfection, with his long hair and fetching smile.
It is high summer in Edwardian England. Leo is from a single parent home, his father is dead. And his mother lives in reduced circumstances. His pal from boarding school, Marcus (played by Richard Gibson) brings him home to the family estate in Norfolk to spend the summer. England is having a heat wave that year, and the weather and scenery play as much of a role in this movie as do the actors.
Marcus' big sister, Marian (Julie Christie - Dr. Zhivago, etc.) has fallen for Ted (Alan Bates) the tenant farmer. This was a big no-no in the society of that time. She enthralls Leo, and uses him as the go-between, delivering messages for trysts with her lover.
Leo is turning 13 that summer. And he has a burning interest to find out "what happens after spooning? I don't know the word for it". Typical of a 13 year old boy. See Guard at his best acting the wondering Leo asking this question of his new pal, farmer Ted. Such wide eyed innocence.
Needless to say, Leo does find out the answer, somewhat to his horror, at the climax of the movie. This happens during his birthday party, which turns out to be the party from hell when his, Marian's and Ted's secret comes out.
It's a horrid end to a fabulous summer for the boy. He turns 13. He made new friends with Marian and Ted. The rich family of his pal Marcus treat him well. He even befriends Hugh, the viscount engaged to Marian. He makes the all-star catch at cricket to win the game for his side, even though it puts out Ted, the champion of the village versus the manor game.
Yet he also discovers betrayal, and lying. And all the charms of growing up.
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