The trailer for Song For Marion has been playing the rounds on our cinema screens for well over a month now, and in all honesty, I had grown incredibly weary of the majority of the jokes before I’d even seen the film. I knew it was probably going to be okay – or rather, it wasn’t going to be bad – but I still couldn’t really be bothered watching it. But thanks to my new self-appointed status as some sort of film critic, I decided to bite the bullet and go along. What I got was a mixed bag.
I’ll start with the stuff that doesn’t work. Right from the very beginning there’s a clear cut outline of where the film is going. Even without seeing that trailer which lays out the entire plot step by step a hundred times, I still would have known exactly where it was going to end up. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with knowing what kind of film it is and that it has to have some form of happy ending, just like you know when you’re watching a horror that it’s probably not going to have one, but there is a problem when the audience knows every single twist and turn along the way. Too often I found myself waiting for bits in the trailer to happen and urging characters to get on with it because I knew where they were going to end up.
Much of the film also feels a bit too contrived, particularly throughout the first two acts where it often pushes too hard to be moving or uplifting at the wrong times, and hammers home the issues of disability and growing old like it’s screaming out for an Oscar. Sorry Mr. Williams, you’re too late. One just gets the impression that the director is too eager to make the audience shed a tear. It could do with leaving some of that heart string-pulling for the finale instead of trying to ration it thinly across the entire film.
To the film’s credit, it does have you care about Arthur by the end, even if it does take a long, long time to do so, and despite problems with some blunt dialogue early on in the proceedings, the cast is pretty good and perform their duties perfectly well. The writing is never bad, to be clear, it’s just a bit stilted and obvious for the first half hour or so. And I won’t deny there are moments that might bring you close to a silent tear. I was nowhere near it, but I can see how it could get some people. Unless my ears were mistaken, there were a couple of sniffles behind me.
In the end it’s all a bit generic and dull. If you give it your patience you will be rewarded with some funny and sweet moments, but they’re too few and far between. There are just much better versions of the same film out there. See Quartet for an example.