SONG FOR MARION (PG)
Drama/Comedy/Romance/Musical. Terence Stamp, Vanessa Redgrave, Gemma Arterton, Christopher Eccleston, Anne Reid, Orla Hill. Director: Paul Andrew Williams
Music is the food of eternal love in Paul Andrew Williams’s comedic drama about personal triumph and reconciliation in the wake of terminal illness.
His gently paced script sings from the heart, milking copious tears between lively choral arrangements of Salt-N-Pepa’s dancefloor filler Let’s Talk About Sex and Motorhead’s Ace Of Spades.
Those racy renditions come courtesy of the OAPZ, a motley crew of fun-loving pensioners who find camaraderie during their sessions at Smith Hall Community Centre under the baton of pretty volunteer conductor Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton).
She gladly gives her time to the old timers, witnessing firsthand the power of music to lift spirits and temporarily ease the stresses of daily life.
Marion (Vanessa Redgrave) is one of the most popular and beloved members of the choir.
She is battling terminal illness with the help of her cranky husband, Arthur (Terence Stamp), who would prefer his wife to give up singing so she can concentrate on getting better.
“She seems in good spirits,” observes a friend of the couple.
“Yeah, she’s got a couple of months,” replies Arthur matter-of-factly.
The OAPZ are preparing for a singing competition and Marion is earmarked for a rousing solo.
Alas, when she can no longer trill through the pain, Arthur begrudgingly takes his wife’s place and rediscovers his love of singing.
In the process, he also rebuilds bridges with his mechanic son James (Christopher Eccleston) and widens his circles of friends to support him when the time comes to let go of the woman he adores.
Song For Marion is joyful and uplifting, anchored by Stamp’s sympathetic portrayal of a curmudgeonly loner who finds redemption at his lowest ebb.
Williams’s film could easily have descended into cloying sentimentality and emotional manipulation.
So it’s to the writer-director’s credit that he doesn’t soften too many of Arthur’s rough edges or steer his characters far away from the reality of their devastating loss.
Earthy humour counterbalances the grief, such as when one member of the OAPZ questions whether it’s appropriate to be singing about sex.
“Makes a change from just thinking about it,” tartly replies Marion’s pal Brenda (Anne Reid).
Eccleston makes an impact in his limited scenes and Redgrave radiates a glow over every frame. Musical performances aren’t overly polished and raise a warm smile with their sincerity.
Redgrave’s solo on True Colours, performed in front of residents on the village green, is an absolute heartbreaker.
The film’s true colours, just like the lyrics to Cyndi Lauper’s song, are “beautiful, like a rainbow”.