Song for Marion (aka Unfinished Song) review: ode to joy

Song for Marion Unfinished Song green light Vanessa Redgrave Terence Stamp

Powerfully poignant, a bumpy, bittersweet journey through grief and joy.
I’m “biast” (pro): a great cast always gives me hope

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Arthur is a grumpy old coot. His wife, Marion, is a vivacious, bubbly spirit who keeps him connected to the outside world. Alas, Marion is dying. Will Arthur become a recluse, cut himself completely off from the rest of humanity once she’s gone? Marion fears that he will… but perhaps Elizabeth, the director of the old-folks’ a capella choir Marion is a member of, can convince Arthur to join in the wacky fun of belting out rock tunes with a gang of other old coots, and maybe shed his grumpiness along the way as a bonus? If you think it all sounds rather familiar and predictable — mean old man learns the true meaning of Christmas! — think again. Writer-director Paul Andrew Williams ensures that his powerfully poignant tale — keep a box of Kleenex handy — does not take expected paths from early on, which quickly leaves you with a wonderfully unsteady sense that you simply don’t know where it’s all going to end up, and so getting there becomes a bumpy, bittersweet journey through grief and joy and pain that love can bring and the redemption of friendship. And the cast, my god this cast: Vanessa Redgrave (Anonymous) as Marion. Terence Stamp (The Adjustment Bureau) as Arthur. Any opportunity to see these two always-unmissable actors together must be grabbed. (Gemma Arterton [Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters] as Elizabeth and Christopher Eccleston [Amelia] as James, Marion and Arthur’s son, are excellent, too.) Williams is a quietly assured filmmaker who doesn’t avoid harsh reality — Marion is dying of cancer, and not prettily, like Teh Movies often pretend — but nor is he afraid to be unabashedly merry, as in every single scene in which the choir gets down with their charmingly bad selves. It makes for one of those all-around satisfying film experiences that seems to encapsulate the entire range of human emotion in an hour and a half.

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.
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