Some films scratch out a tiny piece of your heart, savage it, not too much, just enough to be memorable, then hand it back to you with a smile that you return automatically, just thankful you have that piece back.
Unfinished Song (released in the UK as Song For Marion) has the standard splendor of a film about love on many levels.
The love between Arthur, played by the ever intriguing and delightful Terence Stamp, just ever-so-slightly less scary than usual, and his dying wife Marion, played to perfection by the unparalleled Vanessa Redgrave.
The love between parents and children.
The love of music and life, highlighted by a quirky choir of feisty seniors performing songs like: Love Shack (B-52s), Ace of Spades (Motörhead), Let’s Talk About Sex (Salt-n-Pepa), True Colors (Cyndi Lauper), and Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel) (Billy Joel).
Stamp was reluctant to take the part until he saw his own father in the character, a mordant, psychologically jammed man who loves deeply, but shows it oddly. I’m sure most watch this film wanting to alternately hug and slug this cranky, sorrowful soul.
The beauty of this film is in the impeccable casting, without the immeasurable talent and experience of Stamp and Redgrave this film could have easily come off as syrupy.
Other brilliant note blended into this song is Christopher Eccleston (yes, the first Doctor in the uberpopular reboot of Doctor Who, also, 28 Days Later, Heroes, Lennon Naked, The Leftovers, Cracker, Thor: The Dark World, etc.), the son with a complicated relationship with his Dad; of course Arthur seems to have a complicated relationship with everyone.
Add then next lovely note, Gemma Atherton (Lost in Austen, Quantum of Solace, etc.) as Elizabeth, a sweet, determined, but lonely choir mistress.
In a world obsessed with youth, films that portray seniors as people are important, but there’s more to it. It’s about love, but more importantly, how love always changes.
So go at it then, smile, cry, smile, laugh, cry, smile, cry, laugh, cry, smile…yup, think that about sums it up.
Don’t let your song go unfinished.