Film Review: Song for Marion

by Graham Adams / 09 May, 2013
Song for Marion

Directed by Paul Andrew Williams

While ad agencies and TV execs continue to ignore their cashed- up, free-spending older viewers, the film industry knows a willing market when it sees one, and is busily producing a string of feel-good movies aimed at the post-60 crowd. Recently we’ve seen The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (starring 78-year-olds Maggie Smith and Judi Dench); Quartet (Billy Connolly, 70; Michael Gambon, 72), Performance (Christopher Walken, 70), and now Song for Marion (Terence Stamp, 74; Vanessa Redgrave, 75).

Song for Marion is essentially a fictionalised version of 2008’s Young@Heart, with the same pathos inherent in that hit doco about an elderly choir’s struggles to succeed. Writer/director Paul Andrew Williams’ formulaic tear-jerker is centred on Marion (Redgrave), who is dying of cancer, and her shy, gruff husband, Arthur (Stamp), who finds her participation in a local talent quest choir to be demeaning and pointless.

Nevertheless, he is a devoted husband, and indulges Marion by picking her up after each session and tending to her when the effort of getting to and from practice is too much for her. He is far less indulgent, however, of his fortysomething son James (Christopher Eccleston), against whom who he harbours some unspecified grudge, and only sees him at all because of his love for his young granddaughter.

The plot develops exactly in the way you would imagine it might, with the inevitable singing contest rounding out the film’s 93 minutes of schmaltz. But Redgrave gives such a flawless performance as the dying Marion that it’s easy to forgive such shameless sentimentality. Terence Stamp is a little wooden as Arthur (he has confessed in interviews that it was a struggle for him to play a character beaten down by old age) but he’s still charismatic despite his advancing years.

The most likeable character — and the one who provides a welcome antidote to the depressing plight of the aged leads — is Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton), who tutors the choir and whose youthful enthusiasm, disarming honesty and obvious care for her elderly songbirds infects the film and eventually wins over even gloomy Arthur. Song for Marion may be schmaltzy but it’s affecting. If you’re prone to weeping, bring plenty of tissues.
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