Song for Marion has a very simple message and an equally simple story – love. This is strong from the offset and carries all the way through the film. Marion (Vanessa Redgrave) is dying from cancer. She is slowly losing her long battle but none of her spirit. She attends a daily singing club for older people and it brings her such joy and happiness, especially as these “oapz” don’t tackle old songs, they sing a selection of Motorhead, Salt N Pepper and The BC52’s. This is all under the teaching and tutorage of Elisabeth (Gemma Arterton) a young music teacher who between teaching at the local school and running the club has very little life of her own or friends. Marion’s husband Arthur (Terence Stamp) is a grump, he is in fact the stereotypical grumpy old man who dutifully dotes and looks after his wife as her full time carer and takes her to the club every day while staying outside having a cigarette. He thinks they are all crazy.
Elisabeth enlists the group in a choir competition as they just want to have fun and show what they can do and, as she says to Arthur, “it isn’t about the winning, it’s about having fun”. This opens up a whole new adventure not only for Elisabeth breaking through Arthur’s tough exterior but for Marion and the relationship Arthur has with their son, James (Christopher Eccleston).
This film is touching at every point. It hits notes with anyone who is watching it because of the family message, the fight and spirit people have and how it’s so important to enjoy life, no matter how silly it might look. Vanessa Redgrave is just beautiful as Marion, a real character with the softest of voices and the scene where she sings True Colours to Arthur at their audition is hard for anyone not to reach for the tissues. She wants her husband to enjoy life, to embrace it as she does in the choir. Terence Stamp is perfectly cast as Arthur because not only does he still have this devilishly handsome quality about him and a slight twinkle in his eye, he really is glum and miserable. In the hands of another it could have bordered too much on stereotype and caricature, but with Stamp he has the balance just right that you feel like you are watching your own dad or grandad struggle with loss and surviving alone in the modern world.
The choir are all fabulous, a mix of familiar faces from British television programmes just subtle enough for you to recognise without them all clamouring for the limelight. You feel as though you are in safe hands and are going to have the best time. The songs they sing are carefully chosen to give the right amount of laughs but are also incredibly endearing. Gemma Arterton is a great choice for Elisabeth because she is natural, friendly and a nice contrast to Arthur. She works with him to find his own voice and to see that singing is a great way to have fun.
This film is real treat for all ages. Don’t think just because you’re young it won’t appeal because it truly will. It ticks all the right boxes in all the right places with its mixture of comedy, emotional drama and heart. Just remember the tissues.
Best performance: Terence Stamp
Best scene: The audition scene in the park
Best line: “Why not sing about sex, better than just thinking about it all the time.” Choir member