Starring: Terence Stamp, Vanessa Redgrave, Gemma Arterton
You may like this if you liked: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (John Madden, 2011), Calendar Girls (Nigel Cole, 2003), Quartet (Dustin Hoffman, 2012)
Shy and grumpy pensioner Arthur (Stamp) lives a quiet life and is happy for it to be that way. He has a troubled relationship with his son James (Christopher Eccleston) and looks after his wife Marion (Redgrave). Marion is a member of a local singing choir called the OAPZ, who led by music teacher Elizabeth (Arterton) sing contemporary songs, but Arthur prefers to have nothing to do with that. As Marion’s illness deteriorates she vows to carry on singing with the OAPZ as they enter a local singing competition, but Arthur is still reluctant to join until tragedy strikes.
So here we are again, another ‘grey pound’ film. Of course that inevitably means it will have certain characteristics. So yes it is clichéd, predictable and as corny as hell, yet all is forgivable due to innocent intentions and some great heartfelt performances. Of course the cynic in me that has seen Paul Andrew Williams’ other films may think he wrote and directed this just because he knew it would make a profit and fund other projects. Even if that is the case that would be forgivable, but there appears to be genuine heart and soul here which turns all the cliché and melancholy into a very enjoyable and involving film.
It is at its most raw and heartfelt that Song For Marion is at its most emotionally effective and compelling. Apparently the film was intended to be rawer and it is a shame that Williams did not have the confidence to stick with this. The sillier and lighter moments feel a little forced and cringe inducing, almost undermining all the good work done elsewhere. The novelty of some of the jokes does ware thin after a while and get a little repetitive.
The tone is predominantly judged well and the relationship between Arthur and Marion is spot on as they have two very different personalities yet also complement each other so well. The character of Arthur would have been so easy to get wrong, and if this was the case would have undermined anything good about the film. However Stamp gets it spot on, Arthur could be a difficult character to like but Stamp allows us to understand and truly feel compassion for a character that is just as flawed as all of us. He has many feeling going on inside his head but is just unable to express them. Redgrave gives an energetic and truly heartfelt performance as the free spirited Marion complementing Stamp’s melancholy and the scenes between them are genuinely heartfelt and emotional. Eccleston gives a solid performance and the troubled relationship between father and son is clichéd but yet presented with such raw emotion that it provides a genuine emotional backbone to the story. In fact it felt that Eccleston’s character was underused and the troubled father-son relationship could have been explored further. Arterton gives an enthusiastic and likeable performance but her character is a little unbelievable and convenient in terms of narrative.
Though it will not win any awards for originality and the more comic elements perhaps misfire more than not, at its core Song For Marion is a genuine and heartfelt human story we can all relate to. Due to the excellent performances only the truly coldest of people will not be moved by the end.