In his directorial debut Paul Andrew Williams gave us an impressive, gritty and bleak crime film, London to Brighton – a film shot in just 19 days on a budget of £19,000. In his latest work he goes on the complete other end of the spectrum to deliver us a heart-warming comedy-drama, Song for Marion. When looking at its exterior, most would easily jump to labelling it a sentimental film which it’s one motive is to get you blubbering. It certainly succeeds in getting you to shed tears, but this is through the film’s well developed relationships between the characters, especially that of Marion (Vanessa Redgrave) and Arthur (Terence Stamp). Marion is terminally ill and is cared for by her grumpy husband, Arthur – he reluctantly helps fulfil her wishes to attend local OAP choir sessions headed by a young music teacher, Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton). But of course as Marion’s health begins to fade, Arthur finds himself becoming more and more desperate about the inevitable prospect of being alone without his beloved wife. This prompts him to become more involved in the choir’s sessions, which builds up to the group’s entry into a national choir competition – a beat very much in the vein of the 1996 film, Brassed Off.
The on-screen chemistry between Redgrave and Stamp is heart-wrenching; it’s hard to fight back those tears as the two comfort one another during Marion’s final months. But it’s when Arthur finally confesses to Marion that he’s scared about being without her that I finally let the tears subside – it’s just beautiful stuff. Redgrave’s singing performance of True Colours and Stamp’s final belting delivery of Goodnight My Darling will also leave you and the theatre audience in a quiver of snivels. But on the side there is very funny and touching moments with the choir themselves which mix in well to not make you an emotional wreck for the majority of the film. Christopher Eccleston is effective on the sidelines as Arthur and Marion’s son who struggles to bond with his stone-walled father. I felt Eccleston was slightly underused, but nonetheless enjoyable in the scenes he had; meanwhile Arterton is sweet and caring as Elizabeth, who tries hard to break down Arthur’s cold exterior in order to get him involved with the choir.
This is a splendid British picture – Paul Andrew Williams proves here that he can tackle pretty much any genre, and if you take a look at his other genre films, you’ll see that the man certainly has the knack – He’s done horror, crime and now a beautiful British comedy-drama. The performances are splendid, the comedic and teary moments are balanced perfectly – but ultimately what makes the film work is that it doesn’t try to break you down into an emotional wreck, it merely presents its characters in situations; bonding, caring and helping one another through the tough times. This is the kind of British film we need more of – you’ll be walking out of the cinema with a warm smile on your face.