Song for Marion Review
By Rich Cline
By focussing on the emotional bleakness in this story, writer-director Williams manages to find some interesting moments in a film that otherwise seems contrived to reach fans of heartwarming fare like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Quartet. And while this film sometimes feels like a geriatric episode of Glee, it at least finds authenticity in the characters' emotions, thanks to clever acting and filmmaking.
It opens with an ageing couple: the perpetually cheery Marion (Redgrave) and her relentless grump of a husband Arthur (Stamp). "You know how I feel about enjoying things," he scowls as she chirps about him coming along to cheer for her singing club at an upcoming competition. But Marion has cancer, and she's trying to make sure that he doesn't shut down when she dies, cutting off contact with his single-dad son (Eccleston). Sure enough, he reacts to her death with cruelty and isolation. But Marion's relentlessly upbeat choir leader Elizabeth (Arterton) won't give up on him, and when she discovers that he can sing, she urges him to take Marion's place at the competition.
After the strikingly original thrillers London to Brighton and Cherry Tree Lane, this is not the kind of film we expect from Williams, but if we look closely we can see him constantly undermining expectations. This film isn't quite as heartwarming as it seems, allowing its characters to be rather startlingly awful at times even though the story is punctuated by uplifting sequences. And of course the veteran cast members are excellent. Redgrave is luminous as Marion, holding the film's emotional centre even after her character is gone. And Stamp quietly reveals a hidden tenderness under Arthur's rough exterior.
The side characters have some depth as well. Arterton gets a chance to show Elizabeth's inability to connect with people her age, while Eccleston is excellent in the thankless role of a man so wounded by years of bitterness that he can't give his father even one more chance. These sides of the story are so fascinating that it's annoying every time Williams falls back on the old cliche of having old people sing about sex. Indeed, they even do a rendition of Let's Talk About Sex. They also put on heavy metal regalia to sing The Ace of Spades. Honestly, this kind of simplistic pandering to the audience actually belittles the reality that retirees have artistic gifts that are both relevant and valuable. Although with this kind of approach, Williams does guarantee that there won't be a dry eye in the cinema.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Monday 25th February 2013
Production compaines: Steel Mill Pictures, Coolmore Productions, Egoli Tossell Film AG
Cast & Crew
Director: Paul Andrew Williams
Producer: Ken Marshall, Philip Moross
Screenwriter: Paul Andrew Williams