They say great things come in small packages and you’d have to have a heart of stone not to shed a tear or two for this delightful little British film that recently closed as the gala night for the Toronto International Film Festival – a small film with a big heart to share.
Marion (Vanessa Redgrave) is dying from cancer. Despite taking its toll on her body the illness has not taken away her soul and she is determined to live her last moments to the full, including singing with her eccentric and colourful friends in a choir. Her husband Arthur (Terence Stamp) on the other hand wants nothing to do with the outside world and would much rather Marion stayed home and rest. Desperately concerned Marion is risking her health and too much of the little energy she has left, he has become angry at the whole world and everyone in it, pushing friends away and distancing himself from the already strained relationship with his son (Christopher Eccleston). Nothing matters to him but Marion.
Only when the inevitable happens and Arthur’s world comes crashing down, does he begin to open himself up to the possibility of a future without his wife, and with a little help from Marion’s friends and their choir leader Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton), Arthur gradually begins to move on and live his life.
Weepy British dramas of this kind have come in their shedloads before, most recently with the likes of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and even Love Actually and Calendar Girls. There is nothing new or original here, in fact like many a heart-warming, self-discovery story before it’s predictable and clichéd. The depiction of the elderly ‘OAPzz’ (as they call themselves) and their involvement with modern music is laughable, but endearing too. However the acting and funny script make it worth your while.
While Redgrave and Arterton are delightful in their roles, it’s Stamp who carries the film. Less ‘Victor Meldrew’ and more ‘Grumpy’ from Snow White, proving under that hard exterior lays a caring side, a heart he only previously showed for his wife.
A few relationships could have been covered in more detail including the theme of father-son estrangement, and even the scenes between the unusual friendship that ignites between Elizabeth and Arthur, as she tries to coax him out of his mourning.
Ultimately the funniest scenes are those between the older characters, Arthur and Marion’s fights and the elderly singers learning how to rap. Not as cringe worthy as you might expect from your Dad on the dance-floor at a wedding.
However at the very centre of this beautiful little drama is a story about one elderly couple and their fight for the more fun and joyful aspects of life and love. What hits home the most if that these central characters could very well be your grandparents or the locals you see down the pub, British eccentricity at its best and most charming.
It probably won’t gather much attention, nor will it be remembered as one of the great comedic dramas, but it is such a sweet and tender film that it deserves to be praised and enjoyed.
Song For Marion will be released in the UK early next year.