NATALIE STENDALL FILM REVIEW: Flimsy comedy is pretty predictable

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Glee for the over 60s, Song For Marion is a tear-jerker that plays on the uplifting power of music and family. This sentimental comedy drama from Paul Andrew Williams (London To Brighton) follows grumpy and reserved Arthur (Terence Stamp) as he struggles to cope after the death of his wife, Marion (Vanessa Redgrave). In an effort to honour Marion’s memory and adopt her love of life, Arthur joins Marion’s local choir group, the OAPz, as they enter their first competition.

There are a few strong quips in William’s script - ‘you know how I feel about enjoying things,’ says the astute Arthur - but the plot is predictable and the dialogue frequently stale. Excessively saccharine singing teacher, Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton), steps in to drive the story forward, encouraging the ill-tempered Arthur out of his shell. It’s an improbable friendship brimming with sentimentality and Elizabeth’s emotional breakdown feels stilted and forced.

Aside from Marion and Arthur’s struggle through their last days together, much of Song For Marion is unconvincing. That Song For Marion plays heavily on the comedy value of watching a group of older people singing and dancing to ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’ feels cheap and borderline insulting. Song For Marion might be lighthearted but fails to strike the emotional chord or comic highs of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel or Quartet. Yet Song For Marion is mercifully short and wastes no time in reaching its climax. Unfortunately, Song For Marion is a victim of its own trailer, which gives away far too much, and the crescendo covers little new ground.

In its strongest moments, Song For Marion explores the the devastating effects of losing a life partner and the difficulties of lifelong marriage. As Marion negotiates Arthur’s struggle to address or communicate his feelings, Song For Marion is at its most poignant. In his role as Arthur, Terence Stamp’s wooden approach frequently shifts between clunky and razor sharp with some moving musical performances to boot. Yet Stamp’s emotional vocals fall prey to William’s sentimental direction as a single falling tear becomes the blunt finishing touch. Redgrave and Arterton’s performances are similarly hit and miss, yet Song For Marion somehow succeeds in all its manipulative tear-jerking, impregnated with sorrow and regret.

A flimsy comedy drama, Song For Marion’s plausible start plays out in predictable but improbable fashion. Held together by haphazard but appealing performances from Redgrave, Stamp and Arterton, Song For Marion is gentle entertainment that blends sadness and hope with a few ridiculously comic scenes in-between.

Certificate: PG

Running Time: 93 minutes

The Verdict: 2/5