Song For Marion

Song For Marion


Reviewed by: Martin Gray

In the popular memory, The Full Monty and Brassed Off are knockabout romps full of funny characters laughing at life. Certainly, that's the aspect the marketing emphasises. A viewing reminds us that while they have plenty of laughs, they're poignant portrayals of ordinary people dealing with tough circumstances.

And so it is with Song For Marion. The trailers and bus ads foreground the rapping pensioners, gleefully talking about sex, baby, with the illness of Vanessa Redgrave's Marion seeming almost an afterthought. The actual film, though, is another matter. From the start, the emphasis is on the relationship between Redgrave's Marion, dying of cancer, and husband Arthur (Terence Stamp). Learning that she has just months to live makes the regular OAP choir sessions at the local social club more important to her than ever. Arthur thinks she should stay at home for fear of being worn out by the exuberant sessions; but the fun is exactly why Marion wants to continue.

Copy picture

After being given the silent treatment by Marion, Arthur gives in, and promises to keep taking his wife to the sessions run by young music teacher Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton). He never joins in, either staying outside with a fag or driving home for a while. Elizabeth enters her charges into a song contest, and as practice, organises a small gig in the local park. While senior citizens singing Ace Of Spades in Spinal Tap gear gives everyone a laugh, it's Marion who steals the show, and hearts, with a tender, vulnerable version of Cyndi Lauper's True Colours.

That night, Marion dies. Arthur is inconsolable, particularly given his strained relationship with son James (Christopher Eccleston). Is there anything that can get him through the first few weeks of bereavement? Elizabeth thinks he should give the choir a chance - it turns out that he can carry a tune.

You could likely plot the last two-thirds of the film yourself, but what it lacks in originality, Song For Marion makes up in heart. The acting from Redgrave and Stamp is sublime, there's never a bum emotional note. Redgrave has played some of history's most assertive women, from Sylvia Pankhurst to Mary, Queen of Scots, but here finds the heroism in an ordinary person. And Stamp underplays beautifully as the emotionally constipated Arthur, making his howl of despair at Marion's passing all the more powerful.

Arterton and Eccleston hold their own with nicely observed and measured performances, and there are cameos from such national treasures as Anne Reid and Ram John Holder, but it's Redgrave and Stamp's show. Even absent from the screen, the memory of Marion tugs at the heartstrings, while Stamp dominates the action with his grumpy dignity.

Truth be told, I wept buckets at this film. It's not saying anything particularly new about life and death, grief and moving on, but it nails the simple realities with skill, style and power.

Reviewed on: 03 Mar 2013
Share this with others on...
An elderly man struggles to deal with his terminally ill wife's desire to be part of her local choir.
Amazon link

Director: Paul Andrew Williams

Writer: Paul Andrew Williams

Starring: Gemma Arterton, Vanessa Redgrave, Terence Stamp, Christopher Eccleston

Year: 2012

Runtime: 93 minutes

Country: UK


London 2012

Search database: