28 February 2013


Up until recently, Paul Andrew Williams' films were largely of the crime and/or horror genres, but Song For Marion represents a big departure for the British writer-director. Positioned to follow "grey pound" box office hits like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Quartet, here's a film that doesn't deal in geezers, or violence, or Jennifer Ellison wearing a tight top and howling swear-words, but in an altogether more gentle and intimate subject matter.

Arthur Harris is a crotchety old bastard who resembles nothing so much as Grumpy Cat's dad, in marked contrast to his vivacious wife, Marion. Nevertheless, Marion's health has been declining, and when her illness resurges, Arthur is all the more eager to protect her from such energetic pursuits as her local choir group. At his wife's insistence, Arthur reluctantly becomes more involved with the OAPz, led by perky music teacher, Elizabeth, and is forced to open up about himself a little more.

Ahead of this film's release, I personally found one major reason to get excited about it- the same scene that made me laugh like every time I saw the trailer, like it was a man getting hit in the groin with a football. I've chopped and embedded the scene in question below, for your enjoyment...

Aside from this bit of comedy gold, the film itself is an altogether more sober, if slightly fluffier affair. It's charming, sure, in its chosen position at the opposite end of the age range to the similarly frothy Pitch Perfect. Still, the more gummy clamp that constitutes this film's lack of bite is nothing to do with the age of the performers. Although Arthur is a surprisingly nuanced character, and Terrence Stamp is fantastic in that role, the character and the performance are unrepresentative of the script as a whole, in which Williams is far happier to recline on an admittedly brilliant supporting cast of pensioners being slightly saucy and singing unexpected songs, than to really up the conflict or the drama.

The main source of conflict comes from the long-standing awkwardness between Arthur and his son, James, played by Christopher Eccleston. This conflict hangs over the film's head in its lighter passages, but doesn't directly affect much of anything. Stamp, the man who was once Zod, gives a grouchy yet sensitive turn, and his scenes with Vanessa Redgrave as Marion are utterly delightful, giving all the more pathos to her illness. Gemma Arterton is a bubbly and likeable character, but somehow still manages to be underwritten- she has a romantic subplot that goes nowhere, and eventually only seems to be there to alternately motivate Arthur and shed a stoic tear as he progresses through his moving character arc.

Song For Marion feels somewhat uncinematic, but it's charming and inoffensive enough that it will benefit from TV showings in years to come. It's elevated above ITV Sunday night fare by the sheer might of the performances, particularly Stamp and Redgrave, but after a while, it becomes very predictable indeed. On that basis, it's about how much you're enjoying the leisurely journey to the finish, and while there's some very moving stuff in here, it would have been nice if there were anything in it as funny as an old bloke putting his back out while doing the robot. However, your mileage may vary, so don't count it out altogether.

Song For Marion is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen
Song For Marion, why not share your comments below? This was a shorter review than usual, yeah, but there's not a lot to say- it's no Cloud Atlas...
I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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