Amour with laughs – ★★★½
Song for Marion is a heartfelt examination of love between a longtime married couple as one of them copes with a terminal illness. With the stalwart acting of both Vanessa Redgrave and Terence Stamp we are in capable hands for this most emotional of topics.
Marion (Redgrave) keeps her mind occupied by singing down at her local hall with a group of her friends. Their conductor Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton) gives them racy and current numbers to spice it up a bit while Arthur (Stamp) grumpily looks on from the sidelines. He has no interest in acting like a fool and can’t seem to grasp what keeps Marion going back time after time. The only thing that seems to bring a smile to Arthur’s face is his granddaughter Jennifer (Orla Hill), but this involves interacting with his son James played by Christopher Eccleston. It’s clear there isn’t much love lost between the two and they only remain civil for Marion.
The chief concern of the film is all about Arthur and how he deals with the impending death of his wife, the woman he’s been in love with for the past 40 years. He rails against the fact that it is her who is dying and tries unsuccessfully to get her to rest. Stamp’s career has been through many phases. He found fame back in late 70s as the ashen faced General Zod in both Superman I and II and came to prominence again in the 90s with The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Soderbergh’s The Limey in ’99. Here he gives one of most reserved, yet deeply moving performances to date.Marion won’t sit idly by and wait for the illness to consume her. The conductor has managed to get them into a singing competition and Marion is determined to sing but unfortunately succumbs to her illness. With Marion now gone, the father son relationship disappears and Arthur retreats from the world. Due to the determination of conductor Elizabeth who won’t let him rest on his laurels Arthur slowly begins to attend the singing classes and sings for Marion.
The performances are without fault, Redgrave captures brilliantly the steely reserve needed to fight off death while trying to keep the family together. Stamp and Eccleston give a fresh credibility to a tense father son relationship seen many times before. Gemma Arterton presides over much of the films warmth and humour conducting and teaching the pensioners some “hip” dance moves.
The only real fault of the film is to do with the tone. On one hand we have an incredibly sad and touching look at love and death and then a comedy about pensioners trying to sing young songs intended for teenagers. At times these two aspects don’t gel well enough together which makes the film feel clunky or stuck between two gears. My main gripe with Amour was that it was hard to believe the husband and wife even liked (never mind loved) one another, whereas with Song for Marion there is no question of this.
Certainly cashing in on the recent wave of “films for old people” such as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Quartet, Song for Marion will certainly find a special place in many hearts regardless of age. Bring tissues.
UK, Germany / Directed By: Paul Andrew Williams / Written By: Paul Andrew Williams / Starring: Gemma Arterton, Christopher Eccleston, Terence Stamp, Vanessa Redgrave / 93min / Comedy, Drama / Release: 22 February 2013 (Ireland, UK), 21 June 2013 (USA, Canada)