out of Five
Running time: 93
Heartwarming British drama enlivened by a trio of terrific performances from Gemma Arterton, Terence Stamp and Vanessa Redgrave.
What's it all about?
Written and directed by Paul Andrew Williams, Song For Marion stars Terence Stamp as Arthur, an emotionally distant pensioner who's caring for his terminally ill wife Marion (Vanessa Redgrave) and is unable or unwilling to connect with his son James (Christopher Eccleston), despite being able to be a decent grandfather to James' young daughter. Despite Marion's worsening condition, she insists on attending a contemporary choir group run by kind-hearted Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton) and Arthur finds himself gradually drawn in by both the life-affirming effect the choir has on his wife and by Elizabeth's freckle-faced charm and warm-hearted encouragement.
When Elizabeth announces that the choir will be entering a singing competition, the group are delighted, but Arthur worries the pressure will be too much for Marion and tries to dissuade her from taking part.
Gemma Arterton is utterly charming as Elizabeth, lighting up every scene with her warm, open face and sparking strong chemistry with Stamp. Similarly, Redgrave is heartbreaking as Marion, while Stamp delivers a terrific performance, maintaining a facade of grumpy intensity throughout; Williams wisely keeps his one powerfully emotional moment behind closed doors and it's all the more devastating as a result.
Williams displays an admirably light-hearted touch and gives the film a rough-edged charm that works in its favour – tellingly, for example, the choir aren't actually all that good. Similarly, despite its share of manipulative moments, the film resists ladling on the sentimentality too thickly, which is either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your emotional susceptibility.
The main problem is that the dialogue is a little too on the nose, with some scenes sounding forced and unnatural and others not really ringing true, such as a just-been-dumped Elizabeth turning up on Arthur's doorstep in floods of tears. On top of that, the film doesn't quite deliver the emotional climax you're hoping for, despite all the necessary elements being present and correct.
Song For Marion is a likeable, warmhearted weepie that's worth seeing for a trio of utterly charming performances from Gemma Arterton, Terence Stamp and Vanessa Redgrave, even if the occasionally trite dialogue means that it doesn't quite deliver the emotional punch it's aiming for.