“The movies … are today the nearest thing ever imagined to the unaffected and unconscious process of life, as expressed in art,” wrote American film critic Otis Ferguson in his 1940s article, “Life Goes to the Pictures.”
This statement rings true in regard to the new British comedy-drama, Unfinished Song, starring Vanessa Redgrave, Terence Stamp, and Gemma Arterton.
The PG-13 film, directed by Paul Andrew Williams, tells the story of an elderly retiree’s journey through the valley of the shadow of death alongside his terminally ill, and much-loved spouse, Marion (Redgrave).
Despite her weak condition, Marion is cheerful and encourages her husband, Arthur—a curmudgeonly old soul whose gloom is offset only by his wife’s sunny disposition. Arthur vows to nurse and care for his wife, but his concern for her manifests itself as extreme grumpiness toward everyone else, including their only son (Christopher Eccleston) and the members of Marion’s community choir, the OAPs — short for old age pensioners.
The choir, an unconventional and somewhat hokey-poky group, led by the young and energetic Elizabeth (Arterton), sings hip-hop, rock and roll, and pop. Its quirky vibe is matched only by its true-to-life depiction of community music groups. Marion loves it! In spite of Arthur’s protestations and her increasing frailty, she insists on singing a solo in their upcoming concert.
Arthur thinks she’ll make a fool of herself, but sitting in the grass at the outdoor concert, he is surprised by her heart-felt rendition of “True Colors,” which she sings directly to him. Her song, along with other seemingly insignificant, but meaningful gestures, richly communicates the depth and affection of their life-long marriage, and will bring you to tears.
On paper, it sounds trite, but thanks to Williams’ eye for detail and his willingness to let the movie be frayed and worn in all the right places, the film is a beautiful and unaffected tribute to family, long-lasting marriages, and the restorative nature of art and music.