Thursday, February 27, 2014

Unfinished Song

February is nearly over and I haven't been to the movie theater all month. The snow and cold have managed to bring out all my hibernating instincts so I've been relying on my new trusty friend OnDemand for all my movie-viewing needs. I've been on a lucky streak so far because each one of my choices has been a sure-fire hit; from Blue Jasmine, The Butler, Dallas Buyers Club, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete, and the last this past weekend, Unfinished Song. This sweet, funny and poignant British film's original title was Song for Marion and stars Terence Stamp, Gemma Arterton and the magnificent Vanessa Redgrave.

Unfinished Song is the sentimental and inspiring story of Arthur, a grumpy old curmudgeon, and his dear wife Marion, whom is recovering from a fight with cancer. Marion is everything that Arthur isn't; sweet, kind, friendly and determined to live whatever is left of her life to the fullest and surrounded by her dear friends, a rag tag group of senior citizens that are part of a local chorus. The chorus' musical director is young Elizabeth (Arterton), a high school music teacher by day who moonlights by helping the OAP's (Old Age Pensioners) get their groove on singing songs like "Let's Talk About Sex" and "Ace of Spades."

Despite having a lovely voice, Arthur avoids the chorus like the plague; limiting his contact to dropping off and picking up Marion for rehearsals. Grouch or not, Arthur is dedicated to Marion; lovingly and sometimes a little too controllingly taking care of all of her needs by himself, and only reluctantly calling on help from his poor son James, who seemingly can do no right in Arthur's eyes. The love and dedication between these two very different people is mutual though, as Marion is the only one who seems to be able to tame the beast and see the real man hiding behind the scowling mask. The OAPs enter a competition and thanks to an incredibly moving solo from Marion qualify to advance, but her hopes and Arthur's life crumble when it's found that Marion's cancer has returned and that there's no hope. As the two face the uncertainty ahead, it will take all of Marion's love to help Arthur find his voice and his way.

Oh, this was so good! I loved it. It was once again another Kleenex moment for me, but worth every tear. Though it was a fictional story, the film reminded me of the documentary Young@Heart which I watched and reviewed back in 2008. The film movingly deals with love and loss and while some will say it's overly sentimental and trite, I say so what because it still delivers. It is funny and heartbreaking and heartwarming and I was too busy wiping away my tears to worry about the fact that I saw the ending coming from a mile away; plus the acting, Redgraves in particular, more than makes up for any and all faults you might find with the plot.

The humor is sweet and light and comes from the sheer absurdity and contrast of seeing these little old ladies and men singing about sex and doing the robot. The singing, namely the solos from Redgrave ("True Colors") and Stamp ("Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel)") will just slay you. OMG, I was a puddle (a messy, snot-nosed puddle). As for the acting, there is palpable emotion in every scene with Stamp and Redgrave, as their love envelops you and you see each of them through their eyes - the way Marion and Arthur see each other. Redgrave was amazing; practically radiating grace, beauty and wisdom. You believe in Arthur's goodness because Marion does and that is all thanks to Redgrave's captivating and believable performance. Stamp shines in Arthur's moments of vulnerability, when the gruff exterior falls away and you're left with a man scared of the future and heartbroken at the depths of his loss.

Do yourself a favor and watch Unfinished Song; truthfully you won't be able to finish it with a dry eye, but after the laughter and tears you'll be left with a smile and a song in your heart.