DVD Review: Song for Marion

“I am a bit scared”

I wanted very much to like Song for Marion, the Paul Andrew Williams film retitled Unfinished Song for the North American market (was that purely because the Diane Warren-penned Céline Dion song that unexpectedly plays over the end credits has that title?), but its generic tear-jerking qualities which seem to borrow from any number of recent heart-warming Brit-flicks fall flat in the face of its good intentions. Vanessa Redgrave plays Marion, terminally ill but determined to live what life remains to the full by singing in a local choir called the OAPz. Her husband Arthur is diametrically opposed though, Terence Stamp characterising excellently his emotional repression and unspoken grief at the way in which life has turned out and only grudgingly prepared to build the bridges he needs to carry on life without his wife in the way she wants him to.

Stamp and Redgrave pair beautifully as this mis-matched couple – his gruffly taciturn nature keeping a constant edge in the saccharine morass, her instinctive vivacity tempered by a wonderful sense of the ordinary – and their family dynamic, along with divorced son (Christopher Eccleston) and granddaughter, is well-drawn, most affecting as they come to terms with the speed of her demise. But the focus of the film settles on the music group led by Gemma Arterton’s relentlessly perky Elizabeth and it is here that Williams comes undone when dealing with his older company. Elizabeth has her choir singing rap and rock songs like Salt’n’Pepa’s ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’ and Motörhead’s ‘Ace of Spades’ but there’s never any emotional connection to the material. It’s just there for the shock value and so there’s an uncomfortable feeling that we’re closer to laughing at than with the choir.  Continue reading “DVD Review: Song for Marion”

Review: Skåne, Hampstead Downstairs

“It all got too much and we did something we shouldn’t have”

Continuing the season of new writing downstairs at the Hampstead Theatre is Pamela Carter’s play Skåne. I was particularly interested in this when it was first announced as having previously lived in Sweden, I was able to recognise the title ‘Skåne’ as the southernmost region in Sweden – basically the equivalent of calling a play Dorset – and advise all and sundry on the correct pronunciation: it sounds something like Skor-ner with the emphasis on the first syllable. But sadly there wasn’t the shedload of Swedish references that I could have nodded sagely at nor the attention to detail with props that I longed to recognise. Instead, there’s a tale of the repercussions of a heady affair as both parties belatedly decide return to their respective partners and families.

We open in the midst of a joint family conference, called by the wronged partners, Siri and Kurt, to allow the adulterous Christian and Malin to explain to their children and spouses exactly why they disappeared off together, and more significantly, why they have opted to return. It is a fascinating beginning, full of tension and intrigue, contrasting family dynamics and whole worlds of emotions as everyone reacts differently to the news that things will be returning to just as they were. What then follows is [spoiler alert] a journey back in time as scenes play out showing how the characters had been affected by the impact of the affair and how they all interacted – in some cases, providing surprising revelations – ending up at the beginning of the liaison in all its bare sexuality. Continue reading “Review: Skåne, Hampstead Downstairs”