Director: Paul Andrew Williams
Starring: Terence Stamp, Gemma Atherton, Vanessa Redgrave, Christopher Eccleston
Written by: Paul Andrew Williams
Running Time: 93 mins
Release date: 22nd February 2013
I really wanted to like this film. It has a good cast of actors and is from the same man who gave us the disturbing but brilliant London to Brighton. It has a lot going for it. Unfortunately, I came out massively disappointed and, considering the talent involved, found the whole experience amateurish.
Arthur is a grumpy old man who is struggling with his dying wife, Marion, while at the same time at loggerheads with his son, James. Marion has one passion in life: singing. She is a member of a rag-tag choir made up of pensioners called The OAPZ, led by music teacher, Elizabeth, who meet at a local community centre and whose unconventional choices of songs (rap, heavy metal etc) is all too bemusing for Arthur. When Marion dies, Arthur soon finds a massive void in his life and with the encouragement of Elizabeth, joins the choir, taking the place of his beloved wife so they can enter a big singing contest.
Song For Marion is definitely aimed at the same audience who flocked to see The Most Exotic Marigold Hotel and, more recently, Quartet. The trouble is, it doesn’t have half it’s class, wit or warmth. The blame has to be aimed, solely, at Williams. His intentions may have been good but his delivery is embarrassing. So we get a bunch of old people making complete fools of themselves, dressing up in wigs and backwards baseball caps, singing Let’s Talk About Sex, as if they shouldn’t because they are old.
Meanwhile, hidden away between the cringing, badly performed and equally badly drawn caricatures who make up the choir, is a far more interesting tale of a family torn apart by ill health and resentment from a father who was never there for his son and who thinks his son isn’t there for him. Terence Stamp, who I have always admired as an actor, holds the film together as the miserable old man who cannot apologise but he is forced to deliver lines that seem forced and unnatural.
Christopher Eccleston, another of this countries finest, is quietly good as James but isn’t given enough to really get his teeth into and Gemma Atherton is fine as the young woman who tries to hold the group, and Arthur together. Then there’s Vanessa Redgrave, who is stunning as Marion. Her’s feels the most natural of all, making her seem real and human while never going over-the-top in a role that some would have. It is the one real highlight.
Then we get the choir coming in again. Isn’t it funny to see an old man giving the finger. It was funny back in the 70s when Ruth Gordon was doing it in Every Which Way But Loose. Now it’s tiresome. To add insult to injury, the final act is so contrived and blatantly obvious that you saw it coming from the opening scene. The Rocky-style, underdog against incredible odds is dealt so heavy-handedly that its almost painful to watch.
Don’t even get me started about Anne Reid. Anne Reid is one of this countries underrated treasures. Anyone who saw her towering performance in The Mother will tell you that she is a truly magnificent actress. Seeing her name in the credits, my heart rose. However, she is reduced to being nothing more than an extra in the awful choir, with very little to say and having no impact at all and it’s a crime of the highest order.
This wants to be The Full Monty. This wants to be Billy Elliot. This wants to be a number of British smashes that we can deliver with ease. What it is, though, is a disaster and Paul Andrew Williams should go back to making cutting edge dramas and grisly horrors because sentimental comedies is not his thing at all. It wants the audience to cry. It just made me wince.