Top positive review
A gem of a movie lifted by an excellent cast
on 16 December 2014
Song for Marion, released as ‘Unfinished Song’ in America, deals with the themes of bereavement, regret, separation, and reconciliation within a family. It uses the preparation of a choir made up of retired people organized by a young music teacher. It is a story that could so easily fall into pathos and sentimentality but it is rescued by a fine cast and the capable hands of writer/director Paul Andrew Williams.
Marion is dying of cancer but still full of life and a love for singing, a passion that Vanessa Redgrave communicates beautifully. She forms the perfect foil for her moody husband Arthur, played with delightful restraint by Terence Stamp. They are deeply in love with one another but whereas Marion is the life and soul of the party Arthur is taciturn and finds it difficult to express his feelings, especially to his son James, played with his usual grittiness by Christopher Eccleston.
Elizabeth is a young music teacher who volunteers at a community centre to form a choir, known as the O.A.P.Z, and is a kindred spirit of Marion’s. It is inevitable that Arthur is attracted to her as his wife enters the last days of her life. Gemma Arterton is infectious in her delivery of a young woman moved by music and a love of life. Between them Arthur finds his resolve to remain in the background crumbling as he is drawn reluctantly into the choir.
There are some strong emotional scenes that contrast powerfully with the more comic moments and both are handled well by director Williams. He gets a good friction between Arthur and James as they try to connect for the sake of Marion but always seem to end up clashing. There a few clichéd moments along the way but there is also some nice touches, such as the growing friendship between Arthur and Elizabeth that comes across as quite genuine. It is not a romance but rather the flowering of a strong platonic relationship inspired by Marion herself. Perhaps the cleverest moment of the film comes towards the end when the choir faces disappointment in the competition that Marion hoped to participate in with them. It could have descended into bathos but is beautifully turned by Arthur’s rendition of Lullaby (Goodnight My Angel) into a high moment of the film. Again, Terence Stamp’s restrained delivery raises the moment.
A genuine feel good movie that explores its themes intelligently and with humour and made all the better for such a fine cast.