It won’t make you sing, but it hits the right notes
In an unexpected shift from the horror films that followed his captivating 2006 crime drama London to Brighton (The Cottage, Cherry Tree Lane), Williams returns with a wise but formulaic, well-acted but not entirely convincing music-based dramedy. Familiar themes (love and trust, joy and new beginnings) are inoffensively dramatised with plenty of singing and scenes inducing chuckles as well as tears.
Set in London, Song for Marion introduces Arthur and Marion Harris, a long-married lower-middle class couple played by the chiselled Stamp and the elegant Redgrave, both esteemed actors whose careers date back to the 1960s. Arthur, the picture of emotional reticence, wears a Scrooge-like mask of cynicism in the face of all enthusiasm. The only one who sees his tender side is his loving but terminally-ill wife, to whom life is a party and death a splendid sunset.
Marion’s weekly sessions with a community choir of amusingly eccentric senior citizens are her greatest source of joy, but to Arthur, who grudgingly drives her, it’s pure “humbug”. Openly showing his disgust for the enterprise, he finds the crooning pensioners toe-curlingly cheesy – and movie-goers will see his point in their a capella renditions of Motörhead and Salt-n-Pepa.
However, Marion’s undeniable knack for singing is pivotal to the story, and fortunately for everybody, it remains in fine form until the end. Facts must be faced, of course, and several painful decisions must be made. One subplot involves Arthur’s estranged relations with his only son (a believable turn from a scruffy Christopher Eccleston), who seems to have learned stubbornness from both his parents. Another unfolds the story of the cheery and beautiful choir leader, Elizabeth (Arterton), who can’t begin to fathom love or men but knows a lot about compassion.
There’s a heart-warming denouement waiting up ahead, and it is safe to say it is not going to rattle your belief in mankind. I think even the trailer includes the irresistible platitude “It’s never too late to …”
You probably won’t want to join a choir, but with a little luck you’ll find the film’s wholesome attitude to sickness and death, if not inspiring, then at least pleasantly uplifting.
Song for Marion (3)
Dir: Paul Andrew Williams; UK drama/comedy, 2012, 93 mins; Terence Stamp, Vanessa Redgrave, Gemma Arterton
Premiered May 8