A charming little weepie

SONG FOR MARION (PG)
Nanjing Night Net

Capitol Manuka and Palace Electric

***

Over the Christmas break, audiences flocked to see Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut film Quartet which was about, and just to completely dumb the premise down, a bunch of old geezers putting on a show. It was gorgeous and emotive, and there are many similarities between that and this, Paul Andrew Williams’s Song for Marion. Perhaps it was the presence of Maggie Smith in Quartet that makes me use Downton Abbey for a simile – if Quartet is like Downton Abbey, then Song for Marion is Coronation Street. But I do like watching a bit of Coronation Street, me.

The Marion (Vanessa Redgrave) of the title is a beautiful and spirited woman facing the pointy end of a long battle with cancer. Apart from her son James (Christopher Eccleston), granddaughter Jennifer (Orla Hill) and her cranky but loving husband Arthur (Terence Stamp), Marion’s great love is the choir run out of the local community centre by passionate music teacher Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton).

Marion wishes husband Arthur could overcome his shyness and ingrained misanthropy to join in with the odd collection of characters who make up the choir and, seeing Arthur as a soul in need, choir master Elizabeth takes it upon herself to bring Arthur out of his shell.

Director Williams works from his own screenplay based around a personal family story. It is a pretty meat-and-potatoes script. Nothing too substantial, nor original, but offering a great platform for stellar performances from Terence Stamp, Gemma Arterton and Vanessa Redgrave.

Redgrave gives what film writers call a ”brave performance”, which is film industry euphemism for ”she’s not wearing any make-up”.

I could have done with a little less shaky cam from cinematographer Carlos Catalan. There is a reason music companies spend good money on elaborate music videos with boy bands pratting around on beaches in their underwear – it’s because watching vision of people sing only has a limited appeal. No amount of shaky camera sweeping across a choir will change peoples’ minds about that.

The choir, amusingly called the OAPz or Old Age Pensioners (with a ”z” at the end to make it sound fresh), is peopled with some fine British character actors and more than a few over actors.

My partner is in the middle of quitting smoking, again, and taking a course of Champix, which has been something of an emotional rollercoaster, with night terrors and waterworks at things as obscure as a passing mother with a pram, a bank ad or the opening credits to Survivor.

It is this doctor’s prescription to keep anyone on any similar medication away from this film. It was a full-box-of-Kleenex job for me, and I’m relatively emotionally stable. Lovely.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.