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SONG FOR MARION

SYNOPSIS:
Shy, grumpy London pensioner Arthur (Terence Stamp) is prodded against his will by his beloved wife Marion (Vanessa Redgrave) to join a highly unconventional local choir - a choir composed of elderly men and women who sing contemporary pop and rock songs. At odds with his son James (Christopher Eccleston), it is left to choir director Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton) to try and persuade Arthur that he can learn to embrace life. Arthur must confront the undercurrents of his own irritable personality as he embarks on a life-affirming journey.

Review by Louise Keller:
Take a tissue for this heartfelt weepie about life, death, music and laughter that warmly embraces friendship and family. Like the 2007 doco Young at Heart, in which the elderly choir sings rock and soul, the choir in Paul Andrew Williams' film 'gets it on' with songs like Salt 'n Pepa's Let's Talk about Sex, Baby, Love Shack and make musical sounds like 'rock thunder'. Williams' story is inspired by the personal relationship between his grandparents which explains perhaps why it feels as though the film is trying too hard. The sentiments expressed are sincere and the performances have great veracity so it is a shame that the film itself lacks the juice and pace proffered by its energetic cast, whose zest for life is infectious. Nonetheless, there is no denying the emotional impact that results from the journey.

Marion (Vanessa Redgrave) and Arthur (Terence Stamp) are opposites. She loves life and in particular, singing with her friends at the weekly choir get-together; he is constantly miserable and has forgotten how to enjoy anything. The paradox is that Marion has a terminal illness but is able to live for each moment. Arthur is terminally miserable, his face perpetually etched with pain. Those precious cuddles with Arthur at the end of the day mean everything to Marion, but Arthur seems to be going through the motions. He resents her joining her friends at choir practice and asks why she goes? You just have to watch everyone's face is her answer. And to a large degree that is true. The seniors sing because they love it and the joyful expressions on the faces say it all. The same goes for the choir's volunteer choir mistress Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton, lovely) whose face exudes happiness as she conducts the choir.

And so develops the film's key relationships: the deep love between Marion and Arthur, the nurturing between Elizabeth and Arthur and the estrangement between Arthur and his son James (Christopher Eccleston). True Colours, the song that Marion sings especially for Arthur before an enthusiastic outdoor audience, is one of the film's most touching moments; the other comes at the film's end with Arthur's heart-wrenching delivery of Billy Joel's Goodnight My Angel.

There are resonances with the 2010 Belgian film Over The Hill Band, as Williams structures a choir competition into the narrative. Members of real community choirs have been cast in the film and their energy keeps it pulsating. It is the individual elements that are stronger than its whole and as I walked away from the cinema, dabbing my eyes, I thought of the expression my mother often used to say: Enjoy yourself, it is later than you think.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

SONG FOR MARION (PG)
(UK/Germany, 2012)

CAST: Terence Stamp, Vanessa Redgrave, Gemma Arterton, Christopher Eccleston, Anne Reid, Ram John Holder, Calita Rainford

PRODUCER: Ken Marshall, Philip Moross

DIRECTOR: Paul Andrew Williams

SCRIPT: Paul Andrew Williams

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Carlos Catalan

EDITOR: Daniel Farrell

MUSIC: Laura Rossi

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Sophie Becher

RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 25, 2013







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