Glee for the over 60s, Song For Marion is a tear-jerker that plays on the uplifting power of music and family. This sentimental comedy drama from Paul Andrew Williams (London To Brighton) follows prickly and reserved Arthur (Terence Stamp) as he struggles to cope after the death of his wife, Marion (Vanessa Redgrave). In an effort to honour Marion’s memory by adopting her love of life, Arthur joins Marion’s local choir group, the OAPz, as they enter their first competition.

© 2013 The Weinstein Company. All Rights Reserved

© 2013 The Weinstein Company. All Rights Reserved

There are a few strong quips in William’s script – ‘you know how I feel about enjoying things,’ says the tongue in cheek Arthur – but the plot is predictable and the dialogue frequently stale. Excessively saccharine singing teacher, Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton), steps in to drive the story forward, encouraging the ill-tempered Arthur out of his shell. It’s an improbable friendship brimming with sentimentality and Elizabeth’s later emotional breakdown feels stilted and forced.

In its strongest moments, Song For Marion explores the devastating effects of losing a life partner and the difficulties of lifelong marriage. As Marion negotiates Arthur’s struggle to address and communicate his feelings, Song For Marion is at its most poignant.

Yet Terence Stamp’s wooden approach frequently shifts between razor sharp and clunky, often undermining Song For Marion’s emotional power. Stamp’s emotional vocals also fall prey to William’s sentimental direction. The blunt finishing touch comes as the camera focusses on a single falling tear. Redgrave and Arterton’s performances are similarly hit and miss, yet Song For Marion somehow succeeds through all its manipulative tear-jerking, impregnated with sorrow and regret.

“Song For Marion fails to strike the emotional chord or comic highs of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel or Quartet”

Aside from Marion and Arthur’s struggle through their last days together, much of Song For Marion is unconvincing. That William’s film plays heavily on the comedy value of watching a group of older people singing and dancing to ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’ feels cheap and insulting. And, despite it’s lighthearted approach, Song For Marion fails to strike the emotional chord or comic highs of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel or Quartet. It’s unfortunate too that Song For Marion is a victim of its own trailer, which gives away far too much. Even so, this hit and miss film remains mercifully short and wastes no time in reaching its climax.

A flimsy comedy drama, Song For Marion’s plausible start plays out in predictable but improbable fashion. Held together by haphazard but appealing performances from Redgrave, Stamp and Arterton, Song For Marion is gentle entertainment that blends sadness and hope with a few ridiculously comic scenes in-between.

VERDICT:    ✭ ✭    2/5

✳ Song For Marion was released in the US under the title Unfinished Song


Images: © 2013 The Weinstein Company. All Rights Reserved

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This review was written in February 2013