Despite never cracking the top of the charts locally, The Go-Betweens remain one of Australia’s most highly regarded bands. Much of this praise focuses on the Lennon-McCartney pairing of singer-songwriters and guitarists Robert Forster and Grant McLennan. Yet their career was filled with drama, and filmmaker Kriv Stenders’ look at their journey as it went round and round and up and down pulls few punches.
The chronological narrative of THE GO-BETWEENS: RIGHT HERE is straightforward in its telling. Where things get interesting are in the interpersonal stories, and the gorgeous way that Stenders presents the material. Covering their humble beginning in Brisbane, highlights include their first single “Lee Remick,” the joining of Linda Morrison as their longest serving drummer, recording in the UK, the release of “Cattle and Cane,” the entrance of multi-instrumentalist Amanda Brown, and the beginnings of the end.
Stenders’ professional history with the band goes back to the music video for 1988’s “Streets of Your Town,” arguably The Go-Between’s most recognisable song. Despite being part of this story, the filmmaker keeps his distance. Indeed, as the surviving lead vocalist, Forster provides much of the narrative voice. He’s joined by Morrison, Brown, archival footage of the late McLennan, and virtually anyone who has been in the band for more than five seconds.
For a band that stood out as mindful in a landscape of punk rebellion in the late 1970s, it’s appropriate the documentary is shot differently to other archival music films. Stenders has chosen to shoot his interviews, and frame archival clips, in CinemaScope to quite literally make these musical legends larger than life.
By the same token, Stenders manages to get unfettered access to some of the most intimate moments and confessions. There’s a scene towards the end of the film where Morrison and Brown sit facing each other, barely holding back the tears as they talk about the way they felt dismissed by respective former lovers Forster and McLennan. It’s a powerful moment that underlines all that we have witnessed.
The film closes out much as it began, with Forster staring thoughtfully at the future/past, and doing what he does best with a guitar.THE GO-BETWEENS: RIGHT HERE paints a picture of a band that may not quite have achieved the stardom they may have aimed for, but gives them the legacy they deserve.