Thursday, 24 April 2014

Unfinished Song

Lowdown: A grumpy old man is challenged to come to grips with life through choir singing.
I take your familiarity with the specific genre of films that try to be more British than British for granted. A specific niche in that specific genre is dedicated to films depicting old British people (think The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for a fine representative). Well, now you can add Unfinished Song to that specific niche of that specific genre. And you know what this means: it means that Unfinished Song is a sweeter than sweet film, full of British characteristics and fine acting; and you know that at the end of which you will suffer from sugar saturation. But you would also feel good.
Fulfilling the part dealing with fine acting is Terence Stamp in the role of Arthur, a grumpy old guy married to a sick with cancer but happy with life old woman, Marion (Vanessa Redgrave). Arthur takes good care of his wife, but is otherwise detached from life. She's the dying one who is clinging to life while he is the alive and well one who doesn't live. She goes to a choir and is very active there, while he does nothing meaningful with his life. Nothing except, perhaps, being actively estranged with his son (ex Dr Who Christopher Eccleston).
it's obvious that Unfinished Song is going to take our Arthur through a journey, at the end of which he will emerge a nice guy and we will all live happily ever after (with the exception of Marion). The question is, how are we going to get to that point? The answer comes through the young drama teacher that runs the old people's choir Marion sings at, Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton). Hers is probably the movie's weak spot: Sure, Arterton fills the role of the pretty faced catalyst well, yet I could not avoid the impression the film would have done just as well without her character. Yes, there would be no sex appeal, but then again there was never a counterpart in the sex appeal department given everyone else in the film is oldish. There would just be better focused movie, I guess. Then again, we already know where the genre's priorities are.
When all the artificial sweeteners fade away, what does Unfinished Song leave us with? My answer is: the opposite of Breaking Bad. Breaking Bad tells the story of a person going through a change, becoming bad; Unfinished Song tells the story of a sort of a bad person going good. It tells us it is never to late to set things right. And it is also an ode to the institution of the family, whether it's the one we share genes with or whether it's an adopted one that makes us feel at home.
Overall: I said it from the start - Unfinished Song is a typical British film. 3 out of 5 crabs.

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