Every year, without a doubt, comes a few films that are a rare combination of comedy and drama. They may address subject matter inherently saddening, but the film in itself, through story and intention, is the epitome of that taut phrase “feel-good”. Whether they are good or bad is irrelevant, as a film’s true worth is sometimes best measured by how it makes a viewer feel. I will not deny the fact that Song for Marion brought me to tears, a rare feat for any film. That speaks to the film’s merits on so many levels.
Terence Stamp is perhaps the most sadly underrated actor of all time. He has a unique acting style and screen presence, and while its common to remember him in roles of a stern, droll authority figure, one has to remember that he has turned in some truly great performances, and the trio of The Limey, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Song for Marion is a list that shows so much range, and those three performances could rival entire filmographies of other actors. The Limey shows Terence at his toughest and most brutal. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert shows Terence at his lightest and most fun, and Song for Marion shows a new, vulnerable side to Terence’s acting style, and I have to say, it must be his best out of his whole filmography. It might be wrong for me to say that a man who has worked with William Wyler, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Ken Loach can have his greatest performance in a tiny little British comedy, but it is entirely possible, and absolutely everything about Stamp’s performance as Arthur in Song for Marion is perfect – we have all seen this character of the standoffish, grumpy old man forced to reconsider his ambitions and try something new, always with heartwarming results. It is a common motif, but somehow, under Stamps’ watchful eye, it seems so new and wonderfully different.
Appearing alongside Stamp is another British film legend – Vanessa Redgrave, who unfortunately of late has been forced to keep herself afloat with small roles in films that never center around her, and she is reduced to extended cameos much of the time. Song for Marion is such a fresh exception to this. Her performance as Marion, the dying woman who never gives up will hit home for many of us, especially those who have lost something to cancer. I doubt anyone can watch her rendition of “True Colors” without at least feeling a little emotional, if not pouring buckets of tears. Stamp and Redgrave have wonderful chemistry, and the love between the two characters seems so real, so honest. These are two performers who have been honing the craft of acting for half a century now, and are still at the top of their game, even if they don’t get the roles they deserve.
I am actually not quite sure what to make of Song for Marion though – the first half is a beautiful portrayal of a married couple dealing with impending loss and grief. It is paced, melancholic and touching – and of course wonderfully witty. The second half, however, is a lot faster and snippy, and the action moves a bit too fast. We don’t really get to experience Arthur’s grief in the way other films portray grieving. Maybe it is a clever technique to try and limit the sadness, and instead concentrate on Arthur’s life after Marion’s death, and his relationship with his estranged son.
Song for Marion is a fantastic film. Terence Stamp and Vaness Redgrave both give stellar performances, as do supporting players Gemma Arterton and Christopher Eccleston. The film is sweet, funny and of course, terribly sad at parts. Yet it is heartwarming and a wonderfully cute little film about love, loss and laughter.