Terence Stamp stars as Arthur, who is grumpy and irascible for no discernible reason other than he is Old. He's improbably married to the very sweet Marion (Vanessa Redgrave), who loves him rough edges and all, but is Dying From Cancer. However, the one ray of sunshine in her life, other than her granddaughter, is singing with the rest of the elderly folks at the community center in a choir run by Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton), a Very Caring Volunteer. "You know how I feel about enjoying things," Arthur deadpans to his Estranged Son (Christopher Eccleston), and it won't take long for you to figure out where this story goes, and how the cranky old man earns some redemption and brings his family together.
And it also doesn't help that, Arthur and Marion aside, the rest of the stock of characters are essentially afterthoughts. We're supposed to believe that the very lovely Elizabeth -- who spends an increasingly unbelievable amount of time meddling in Arthur's affairs -- has trouble finding friends her age or holding on to a boyfriend (a minor subplot that really never goes anywhere). We'd wager someone looking like Gemma Arterton would be considered a catch in a small, working class town. But it's the gallery of Old People who get it the worst, with the film infantilizing them as laughs are attempted to be wrung out of situations that find them dressing up in hip-hop clothes, making heavy metal faces, dancing the robot or singing "Let's Talk About Sex." The brand of comedy in "Song For Marion" comes from believes that anything an elderly person does that isn't knitting or sitting in a rocking chair is kooky and hilarious.
Making his name with the much grittier "London To Brighton" a few years back, a film which was followed by genre flicks "The Cottage" and "Cherry Tree Lane," writer/director Paul Andrew Williams takes a much less interesting turn with this picture. A big broad arrow aiming at the bullseye of the mainstream, "Unfinished Song" hits its target, but whether that relatively low bar deserves to celebrated is up for debate. [C]
This is an edited reprint of our review from the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival.