Action / Comedy / Drama / Music / Romance
Action / Comedy / Drama / Music / Romance
"Song for Marion", a London-set comedic drama, is about shy, grumpy pensioner Arthur who is reluctantly inspired by his beloved wife Marion to join a highly unconventional local choir. At odds with his son James, it is left to charismatic choir director Elizabeth to try and persuade Arthur that he can learn to embrace life. Arthur must confront the undercurrents of his own grumbling persona as he embarks on a hilarious, life-affirming journey of musical self discovery.
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June 20, 2013 at 08:35 AM
Typically tedious and unfunny British "quirky" comedy
Yet another of those British films desperate to repeat the "quirky comedy mixed with emotional scenes" formula of hits such as The Full Monty, Brassed Off, Notting Hill etc.
In these films people say things which people never say in real life, and do things which people never do in real life. These things, however, are never quite so preposterous as to be questioned by the ho-ho-ho middle-aged, middle-class Brits who a) write this drivel and b) these films are aimed at.
Will the father and son be reconciled in the end? OOOOH! What suspense!
Singing the old way
There is nothing much original about A Song for Marion and ultimately it harms the film. Marion (Vanessa Redgrave) is dying of cancer but retains a zest for life and participates in a pensioners choir who do a revved up version of The Ace of Spades. She worries about her curmudgeonly husband Arthur (Terence Stamp) who resents her being in the choir when she is ill and he also has a strained relationship with their son James (Christopher Eccleston.)
When Marion is gone Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton) who leads the choir tries to get Arthur to open up, put side his bitterness and get involved with the choir. The choir have managed to get through the finals of a competition but they are regarded as a one note joke.
The old age pensioners tearing through the classics is a plus for the movie. Terence Stamp's angry character and his verbal sparring with Christopher Eccleston is straight out of the kitchen sink dramas of the 1960s and leaves a sour note.
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Touching Variation on a Familiar Theme
Don't go looking for originality in Paul Andrew Williams's film. The plot recycles a familiar thematic chestnut: a curmudgeonly pensioner Arthur (Terence Stamp) resents his wife Marion's (Vanessa Redgrave's) participation in a pensioners' choir, especially as she is dying from cancer. When she passes away, Arthur shuts himself away from everyone, but with the encouragement of choir-master Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton), he rediscovers his ability to sing. The choir make it through to the finals of a competition, but they are about to be excluded on the grounds of being a laughing-stock compared to the other, more sophisticated entrants. Arthur makes a last-minute entrance, strides on to the stage, sings a song accompanied by the choir, and they end up finishing third.
More recent variations on this story have included ONE CHANCE, the story of BRITAIN'S GOT TALENT winner Paul Potts with James Corden (2014). In Williams's film the two protagonists don't have to do much other than provide contrasting characterizations: the perpetually scowling Stamp set against the more optimistically inclined Marion. There is one memorable sequence where she refuses to talk to him unless he accedes to her wishes.
What makes the film touching is the way in which Williams handles his subject-matter. He does not shy away from the idea that cancer is a killer; however much we like to pretend otherwise, Marion's death is imminent. Having one's partner cruelly taken away after years of happy marriage is traumatic, as it proves for Arthur - especially as he cannot seem to get on with his son James (Christopher Eccleston). A group of OAPs in a choir singing Motorhead might seem incongruous, but the experience gives them a renewed belief in life.
The film makes some telling visual contrasts between the prison-like suburban life Arthur follows, and the beauties of the sky above. As he watches the sun rise and set, he understands how there are far more important things in life than sitting in the house. Marion looks down upon him from the heavens; and it's his duty to honor her.
It's a cliché to say that films like this are life-enhancing, but A SONG FOR MARION proves the truth of this statement.