‘You will apologise to everyone and you will take me to singing.’
Let’s talk about sex baby, lets talk about OAPs, let’s talk about all the good things, all the bad things that may be….
Marion (Vanessa Redgrave) likes nothing better than to join her singing group of OAPs run by volunteer music teacher Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton), an activity that her grumpy husband Arthur (Terence Stamp) does not share with her, nor does he approve of the group. Marion’s choir have an unconventional concert competition coming up and have been rehearsing in order to sing some more outré numbers than would perhaps be expected from their age group; indeed the choir’s new name is the hip inspired moniker OAPZ (‘with a Z to make it more street’), even though most of them can’t hop – hip or not. But Marion has more problems than a grumpy husband and his strained relationship with their son James (Christopher Eccleston), for she is also dealing with a terminal illness. Can there be a positive outcome for the family, and might Arthur actually decide to join the choir, whatever the score?
Song For Marion is a family drama set in the north of England which addresses issues about illness and ageing and combines them with ‘grumpy old man’ humour and plenty of songs that work if you like songs in film (appreciate them, laugh at them, join in with them – your choice) or don’t (relate to Arthur’s attitude about them and sympathise with him). Of course there is redemption and emotion as the plot progresses but it never becomes overtly contrived nor is it ever saccharine. Both Vanessa Redgrave and Terence Stamp, iconic screen actors, are on top form, putting in mature performances that show their willingness to be depicted as ordinary, vulnerable, frail – and old.
What is striking, amidst the painful circumstances of Arthur’s situation, is how uplifting the film is. The songs comprise fun covers – who would have thought you’d enjoy watching a choir of OAPs signing Motörhead’s Ace of Spades or Salt-N-Pepa’s Let’s Talk About Sex? It could be argued that Song For Marion is simply a film designed for the increasingly targeted silver cinema demographic, or that this is really not the sort of film you would expect Paul Andrew Williams to produce after such abrasive offerings as London to Brighton (2006) or The Cottage (2008) but that would be missing the point. Song For Marion is a gentle film which offers more than its premise of ‘singing OAPs’ would suggest, depicting serious issues without being overtly miserable – except where needed.
You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll sing. Perhaps. Maybe after a smoke and a pint.