Song for Marion
This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 5 May 2013
Song for Marion is such an unfair movie. Yes, it made me cry, and yes, I laughed out loud (just once or twice). But on the whole it’s so dreadful it even had my mother – the film’s target demographic, no less – damning it as “totally unnecessary!” as we left the cinema.
This British coming-of-age (by which I mean, growing old and dying) drama has moments of comedy but attempts broadly to be meaningful and poignant. Check out Vanessa Redgrave’s scarf-clad head on the poster – she’s Marion who, despite ailing health, spends her days singing sunnily in a pensioners’ choir with a bunch of quirky, supportive friends. They are chivvied along by a chirpy and patronising Gemma Arterton (Tamara Drewe). Less encouraging is Marion’s curmudgeonly husband since forever, Arthur, played by the glorious Terence Stamp. Arthur hates the singing, he hates the world, and he hates that Marion is slowly leaving him. She merrily snuggles up to him and plays the sunshine to his thunder.
The conceit is fine, and with stars like Redgrave and Stamp, plus fine support from Christopher Eccleston as their son, you’d think this film would be a dream. Even forgiving its blatant rip-off of the superb documentary Young @ Heart (the real-life tale of an OAP choir which sings modern pop and rock songs), the themes are universal and affecting, and the poignant bits are sensitively handled.
However, somehow it just doesn’t gel. The film means well, but the execution is clunky and condescending, from the nudge nudge of old people singing about sex to Arterton’s tacked-on backstory and consistently grating manner. You anticipate the plot’s every move, yet it makes you cry anyway. Disappointingly, definitively, not the sum of its parts.