Unfinished Song (Song for Marion)

Directed By: Paul Andrew Williams

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

Is it just me or do elder British actors have a lock on movies about old people?  In the last year or so, we've had The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Quartet, and now Unfinished Song.  With the exception of Amour, there haven't been too many non-British films about the elderly hitting theaters as of late.  I will say that each of these British flicks has one thing in common.  With the likes of Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Billy Nighy, and Billy Connolly, there's no shortage of acting royalty on hand.  In the case of Unfinished Song, we've got Terence Stamp and Vanessa Redgrave lined up.  That's a great combo right there.

Arthur (Stamp) is a grumpy old man, and it's a bit understandable.  It's just his personality.  He doesn't like having fun or enjoying himself at all.  His wife Marion (Redgrave) on the other hand, who is dying of cancer, is all about enjoying whatever life she has left in her.  She does so by singing in a local seniors' choir, which Arthur detests, especially when they come singing in the neighborhood.  He has a particularly adversarial relationship with Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton), the choir director.  As Marion's health continues to decline and she becomes no longer able to sing, she asks Arthur to take her place on the choir and show his true colors.  This dark horse is going to need to learn to do so when Marion is gone.  Meanwhile, Arthur's relationship with his son James (Christopher Eccleston) is on the rocks, and Marion wants him to right this wrong.

Unfinished Song is not quite what I expected.  While there’s certainly a decent bit of humor and there’s something heartwarming at the film’s core, we don't quite get what's advertised.  With Vanessa Redgrave's character Marion being terminally ill and, in fact, dying in the film, it's surprisingly depressing.  This was not the lighter fare about old folks singing that the trailer promised with a grumpy old man coming out of his shell.  This is a movie about a grumpy old man coming out of his shell as he deals with no longer having the person in our world that is most precious to him, his wife Marion.  While this certainly adds a layer of emotional depth to the film, it's not quite what I'm looking for on a Friday or Saturday night.

The actors are entertaining and have great chemistry with one another.  For his part as Arthur, Terence Stamp plays the grumpy old man to perfection.  The esteemed character actor, known for his role as General Zod in Superman and Superman II, has still got it and surprises us with a decent singing voice.  As Marion, Vanessa Redgrave is the emotional anchor of the film.  The darkest and sweetest scenes are all because of her looming presence on camera or a lack thereof.  Unfortunately for us, her singing does not lend credence to an idea put forth in the movie — the idea that a good song is not about the quality of one's voice but about the distance that voice has travelled.  Regardless of my gripes with Redgrave's singing, her deft acting does a great deal for the film.

For her part in the movie as the choir director Elizabeth, Gemma Arterton is also quite enjoyable in this flick.  The lovely young Briton brings some bubbly energy to the screen and serves as the perfect counter to Terence Stamp's grumpy Arthur when Marion is no longer around to keep him in check.  As Arthur and Marion's son James, Christopher Eccleston brings one of the more interesting characters in Unfinished Song.  He has a loving relationship with his mother but despises his father.  He gives a solid supporting performance throughout the film exploring the depths of his character when he can.

Unfinished Song is at times warm and fuzzy, at times charming and humorous, and frequently depressing.  Though not quite what I expected, it is still an enjoyable film with a solid cast.  Unfinished Song gets a strong 0.06% rating. Have a couple of glasses of Pinot Grigio with this one.