'Song For Marion' capitalises on a recent trend for amateur musical choir programmes, particularly seen in the television world, delivering a familial drama that features the elderly singing about sex and other such arguable anachronisms. Writer-director Paul Andrew Williams made an impression with his debut feature 'London To Brighton' in 2006, and 'Song For Marion' could well be his ticket to more mainstream cinema.
Vanessa Redgrave is Marion, a cancer patient, who enjoys her regular choir sessions, much to the distaste of her grumpy husband Arthur (Terence Stamp). Arthur begins to be won over by the enthusiasm of his wife and choir leader Gemma Arterton until tragedy strikes. Ostracising his son (Christopher Eccleston), Arthur's life soon feels hollow - leading him to seek refuge with the choir, The (unfortunately named) OAPZ.
There have been several film and television programmes focussing on choirs in recent times from Gareth Malone's 'The Choir' and 'All The Small Things' to the forthcoming Hollywood comedy 'Pitch Perfect'. 'Song For Marion' stands out from these efforts, mainly thanks to Terence Stamp's whose layered performance is quite moving, at times.
However, 'Song For Marion' is particularly indebted to the incredible 2008 music documentary 'Young@Heart', which followed a New England chorus of singing senior citizens as they prepared for an upcoming concert. 'Song For Marion' catches the free-spirited nature (and often rebel spirit) of 'Young@Heart', even going as far as to matching some of the emotional beats of the documentary.
The storyline typically moves in a fairly predictable fashion, while the songs rarely fail to excite or interest - barring a touching solo offering from Marion. The sentimentality is often noticeably overpowering, and difficult to connect with, although the frequent moments of humour help to re-engage with the film. The fractured family dynamic carries the viewer through to the end but the sense of reconciliation never seems threatened.
This tear-inducing feature from Paul Andrew Williams should help him connect with mainstream audiences although the wish is that he could have done so in a more imaginative fashion. 'Song For Marion' can be considered something of a facsimile of other on-screen choir ventures, and often feels formulaic but the central performances are arresting and drive the film forward when it stutters.
'Song For Marion' is screening at the 56th BFI London Film Festival, its final screening today at 16.15. For more info and to purchase tickets, head to bfi.org.uk/lff.