Song for Marion
  US title: Unfinished Song 3/5
dir-scr Paul Andrew Williams
prd Ken Marshall, Philip Moross
with Terence Stamp, Vanessa Redgrave, Gemma Arterton, Christopher Eccleston, Anne Reid, Ram John Holder, Bill Thomas, Taru Devani, Calita Rainford, Alan Ruscoe, Brian Shelley, Sally-anne Cooper
release UK 8.Feb.13, US 21.Jun.13
12/UK EOne 1h33
Song for Marion
Misery guts: Redgrave and Stamp

arterton eccleston reid
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Song for Marion After London to Brighton and Cherry Tree Lane, you'd never expect this kind of heartwarming drama from Williams. Maybe he's just cleansing his palate, but at least he injects some dark shadows into a predictable story, even if it feels like a geriatric episode of Glee.

Arthur (Stamp) is an inveterate grouch. "You know how I feel about enjoying things," he mutters to his cheery wife Marion (Redgrave), a key member of a singing club, that's preparing for a big competition. But Marion has cancer, and worries that Arthur will shut down after she dies. Sure enough, he gets even surlier, cruelly severing ties with his single-dad son (Eccleston). But he slowly warms to Marion's persistently upbeat choir leader Elizabeth (Arterton), who discovers that Arthur can sing and tries to get him to take her place in the group.

There's nothing original about the plot, which mashes together elements from more memorable British feel-good movies like Calendar Girls and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. But by focussing on bleaker emotions, Williams finds intriguing edges in his characters. Marion may be relentlessly positive, but she's fully understands that no one but her can bear to be around Arthur So when she sings Cyndi Lauper's True Colours to him, it has a touching resonance.

Redgrave is terrific of course luminous and full of life: she provides the film's emotional centre even after the character is gone. Stamp reveals the soft centre under Arthur's prickly shell with reluctance, which makes his final scenes deeply emotional. Meanwhile, Arterton reveals a young woman who can't connect with people her age, and Eccleston quietly shines in the thankless role of a man so wounded by his cold-hearted father than he can't believe there's a human being in there.

So it's annoying that Williams plays several too-obvious cards. Are we supposed to find it amusing when retirees sing Let's Talk About Sex or Love Shack? Or put on heavy metal gear to perform The Ace of Spades? Not only are these references badly dated, but they belittle the point that old folks still have life in them. That said, this tender, moving film is unlikely to leave a dry eye in the house. But you'll never admit it, you old grump.

cert pg themes, language 19.Oct.12 lff

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© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall