Tuesday, 26 February 2013
Song for Marion
On one level, the trailer sets up what to expect with this film - and it delivers exactly what it it promises. This is tear-jerker of an emotional roller coaster in the ''this is gritty England' style of The Full Monty, Brassed Off, Billy Elliot and Calendar Girls. In many ways it is formulaic and you know what's coming - but then so is a Manchester United counter attack as a ball headed out from a corner is picked up Carrick who puts it through to Van Persie who plays in Rooney to score with a total of only five touches. It is no less wonderful, beautiful, uplifting or poetic, simply because it follows a formula!
What adds to the strength of this simple story of complex truths is the strong acting of the four leads - Gemma Arterton who plays Elizabeth, Terrence Stamp who plays Arthur and his wife in the title role of Marion, Vanessa Redgrave, and also their son James played by Christopher Eccleston.
The story is quite simple - but how it is portrayed is anything but. This is a powerful drama about families and relationships, about self-imposed expectations, about love, realism, pretence, regret and forgiveness. It is also a film that opens a door on what it is to have life and to live it to its fullest potential.
Arthur is the pivot around which the others revolve. He is retired and devoted in a very dutiful but undemonstrative way to his wife Marion who has cancer. He doesn't disclose how he feels and is as hard on everyone else as he is on himself. He has never felt it necessary, or been able to build a relationship with James his son, who struggles to run his business whilst bringing up his daughter as a lone parent. Marion loves Arthur - despite his gloominess and almost constant state of seeming depression. Arthur's only respite from caring for Marion is a Thursday evening visit to the club for dominoes and a beer with former colleagues.
Marion draws encouragement from her membership of a choir which is led by the charming and talented Elizabeth - a music teacher at a private school. Marion is in turn an inspiration for the other members of the choir - something which Arthur cannot understand as singing is close to doing something enjoyable! Following Marion's death, Arthur allows Elizabeth a little closer and they develop a platonic relationship. Everyone struggles with their grief - particularly James and Arthur in their different ways. James is trapped by his need to work to provide for his daughter. Gemma is so wonderfully attractive you can understand her frustration in not being able to sustain a meaningful relationship with a man. Arthur and Marion had each other - until Marion's death and then Arthur is left with a void that is unfillable.
Perhaps many of the things that characterise Arthur and his relationships are products of the generation born during WWII and the in the years just after - times of deprivation, of biting the bottom lip, of simply getting on with life no matter what you felt. The social observation in this film would make Ken Loach proud! James and Elizabeth are of a different generation who have different values and goals. The way in which everyone's respective journeys are all mapped out is a masterpiece of storytelling which weaves a rich and fulfilling fabric depicting the highs and lows of life, the things that matter and the things that make life worth living.
I think this film is a gift - another one exploring themes of people in the older years of life. It also explores themes of loss and bereavement that would encourage a discussion on these areas. If you can, do go and see it. I'll give it 8/10.