This is a film for the bereaved to tease out the tears. It is for those who bask in The Full Monty formula. It is for lovers of Vanessa Redgrave and Terence Stamp: the minstrels! It is an unexpectedly engrossing battle between the pat and caricatured and the tender and classy. Oh – and family.
(Including the Weinstein one. The brothers executive produced this, making it a test of old Jack’s resolve to look past the poison of their name and enjoy the work of everyone else. Do try? They weren’t all to know…).
Marion (Redgrave) is a live-life adorer of the depressive, emotionally locked-in Arthur. She sings with the risk-free community choir (really – they’re a bunch of crumbly caricatures, but they can sing like metal addicts when it matters). And she is dying. When her 45 minutes of screen-time are up, the family difficulties come roaring to the fore. Arthur could only ever connect through Marion to their son James, the wounded and bemused Christopher Eccleston. The vacuum is filled by the perky Gemma Arterton as Elizabeth, choir-lead and energiser of the decrepit. The link with Arthur isn’t quite believable, but it does its job and change begins…
Hmmm. Put that way it sounds a bit heavy, and perhaps it should be. The balance is right off: misery and family dysfunction is mixed, badly, with the cheery choir belting out incongruous songs. They’re also a bit of an affront to the complexity of everyone over 60.
Song for Marion caught old Jack where he is vulnerable. The leads take this to a classy place that had me in tears. Redgrave exits with characterful dignity. Stamp flickers from inaccessible grump – even to himself – to primal screamer at his loss to beautiful singer. Arterton carries the plot with a skip and a cheer, much like Hayley Atwell in Redgrave’s last oldster celebration (How About You… (2007)), but this time in support of the exiting generation. Eccleston isn’t even remotely intense and acts as a warning to hug your children however old they may be.
Old Jack was alone in the TV room when this was on. And all ready to bitch to you about the clichés of character and plot – and, boy, are they there. But…I kinda loved it.
There is a saying about the coldest hearts being a moment away from sentiment. If life has dried you out and chilled your bones, a) Get over yourself, twat; b) watch Stamp at work. His transition from growly sourpuss to gentle widower, honouring Marion with a gorgeous song, touches on why love matters and the stresses of your adult nappy don’t.
Ancient hearts, eh?