Vanessa Redgrave and Terence Stamp make compelling turns as an old married couple living out their final months together in Song for Marion, the new British drama from writer/director Paul Andrew Williams.
Stamp plays the grumpy, angry Arthur whose capacity for real, self-sacrificing love and tenderness is hidden from all but his adoring wife Marion (Redgrave).
Marion suffers from cancer and has been given just two months to live but doesn't waste time feeling sad or sorry for herself. Rather she continues to give of herself cheerfully to the community choir she is part of and draw strength from her fellow singers, people she considers to be dear friends. Her bright optimism and engaging, sociable personality contrast starkly with the raw anger of Arthur who pushes people away, including their own son.
Change only comes after Marion's death and Arthur's discovery not only of the fact he can sing but also the means singing gives him to channel his pent up emotions positively rather than damagingly. This is given its fullest expression when Arthur overcomes his fears and vulnerability to sing a moving song in tribute to his late wife.
The film does have weaknesses. Its comedic formula – old people rapping and singing rude songs meant for a younger generation – is a little tired, and Arthur's growing relationships with the choir and in particular the choir leader (played by Gemma Arterton) lack the emotional depth to make them anything more than a prop in the story.
Nonetheless, the performances from Stamp and Redgrave are memorable and there is much to appreciate in their measured portrayal of a couple confronting death with pragmatism. Following Marion's death, the plot could have headed off in any direction, but rather than grief and sorrow, Song for Marion concentrates on the power of love to affect change in people beyond the grave. Although Marion is no longer with Arthur in person, it is the memory of her love and zest for life that break down the scaffolds of anger in him and free him to express the love that was for so long buried in him.
Damaris Trust has produced free resources for churches to engage with the movie, available here