Song for Marion: A Review

26 Feb

‘Song for Marion’ was a film that I was waiting to watch since I first saw it advertised. And, I must say, it was well worth it.
Devoted couple Arthur (Terence Stamp) and Marion (Vanessa Redgrave) live in a small bungalow, where Arthur cares for his ailing wife. Marion is a member of a choral group made up of elderly people and looks forward to her regular singing sessions at the local community social centre. Marion is optimistic, outgoing and well liked.
Arthur, however, is quite reticent or insular, grumpy, stubborn and refuses to be drawn into the same arena which Marion enjoys so much. They have one son, James (Christopher Ecclestone) who is close to his mother but there appears to be a void between father and son.

Like a number of films before it, and no doubt there will be many more to follow, the premise of this film is based upon the idea that Elizabeth, the choir leader, played amiably by the versatile Gemma Arterton, informs the group that she is going to enter ‘The OAPz’ (the ‘z’ is added to give it more street cred, and also a nod to a singing/dancing group of pensioners who entered Britain’s Got Talent a few years ago) into a choral singing competition. So the “oldies” throw themselves into rehearsing and performing for their one special night. It is only when Marion is informed she has a couple of months to live that we realise she is dying of cancer and things begin to change.

A scene where her fellow amateur singers gather together outside Marions’ bedroom window and sing in the rain leads to a minor disagreement between Arthur and Marion. Arthur shouts at the singing crowd and tells them to “bugger off!” and Marion asks him to apologise, which he refuses to do. So she refuses to speak to him until he does. The scene is both humourous and typically quirky of British eccentricities.
The two stars share scenes like a well worn old pair of shoes, and come across as a very familiar, doting and loving couple.

With Marion passing away, Elizabeth takes it upon herself to offer Arthur the opportunity to say what he feels and be true to himself. At first, he is reluctant to change but decides to open up and seeks solace or refuge at the social club, to continue the good work of Marion. At the same time, he tries to reach out to his son and make amends for being so distant. The son closes the door on him…

Vanessa Redgraves portrayal of a dedicated, loyal, dying wife anchoring the bonds between the strained relationship of father and son and singing Cyndi Laupers “True Colours” was sensitively handled. One of the grand dames of screen and theatre presented Marion without any schmaltz or the feeling that we’ve seen it all before. And Terence Stamp singing his ‘Song’ for Marion, hence the title of the film, at the end was a real heartbreaker. He sang it with aplomb and such powerful emotions came through. Not a dry eye in the house on screen as well as off, I would say.

“Song for Marion” is a well written, well directed tender, simple yet touching story which engages the audience and is likely to bring a tear to the eye for anyone who has loved and lost, experienced grief and bereavement or is a fan of sentiment and family humour. Some parts of the script were deliberately construed to set the viewers emotions in a certain direction, soft hearts with a slightly cynical edge. I certainly had my tissues handy and I’m sure others in the auditorium were feeling as if they’d gone through a bittersweet chapter too.

What sets this film apart from other films of similar ilk is the understated and sturdy performances of the stellar cast, although the supporting actors like Ann Reid and the extras were superficial to requirements. Setting it in a social club in one of the many towns in the UK community adds realism and attention to detail. I think the British audience would be able to relate to it more than our overseas friends but the core of the tale will strike a chord with many.

Yet another heart-warming, charming tale in how to deal with the elderly, dying and death. It’s about time we saw more films dealing with the elderly and real issues that we need to face up to and manage. Some people would say it was corny, but if this is corn, I like it sweet with a pinch of salt. More please!

The Learned Kat

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