Directed by Paul Andrew Williams
Starring Gemma Arterton, Vanessa Redgrave, Christopher Eccleston, Terence Stamp, Anne Reid, Calita Rainford
This being a London-based film about adjusting to infirmity, ageing and the rough edge of personality mismatching, Terence Stamp (umpteen bad guys, tough guys, mean guys through a 45-year career nowhere near terminus) and Vanessa Redgrave (a well-known real-life rebel, contrarian, anti-person and grump) are the mismatch couple of the day. But they love each other despite his incurable grouch and her eternal optimism and radiant love. In her wheelchair and woolly hat, she's the pet of the elderly chorus.
Vanessa (as Marion), looking ancient and haggard, is a prime member of a sweet chorus of old-age pensioners led charismatically and lovingly by a terrific newcomer to the silver screen, Gemma Atherton, a pleasure to watch no matter what she does or says. Her irascible (still entirely handsome) grizzly husband of many years, Arthur, tolerates her likability and popularity afield, deeply connected to taking care of her as she wanes from some form of fatal cancer.
Curmudgeon (but intensely loving) Arthur honors his wife's passion for singing in the OAPZ (Old Age PensionerZ) troupe, reluctantly joining with her unconventional local choir, a slow process architected by choral director Elizabeth (Gemma) that eventually helps mend the chasm between him and his equally rough-tough macho, estranged son, James (a winning Christopher Eccleston). We watch and helplessly melt as Arthur is eventually tamed into attending choral practice for a county-wide sing-off. Surprise: Terence Stamp, known for a million movies where his brute carapace or nastiness was the touchstone, can... sing. And well, too.
The colors of the film match the mostly uplifting story, there is tons of gentle humor, and we weep as we do, even the manliest, because we have all by now encountered loss and solitude. About the only false note is that in the role of Elizabeth, Gemma Atherton has to say that she's "needy, so [she] loses all of her dates...." Wrong. She's not needy. She's darling, fresh and beautiful, and a man would be daft to not follow her anywhere.
A winning movie-movie, with relatable characters, touching story, laughs and hanky leaks. A laughfest that features a heroine whose first name is Marion (for once) can't be all bad. And this one is, overall, a charmer, a piece of briny colorful taffy, in keeping with the gustatory trend of the sweets market today. Dare one say this is as close to a wholesome film as we get?
Take-away: Live intense, live deep. It all ends sooner than you'd like.