“Unfinished Song”: Older Partners Coping With the Help of Music

Watching the new British film Unfinished Songwritten and directed by Paul Andrew Williams, reminded me of the inspiring and worthy documentary Young at Heart (2007), about a real-life chorus of senior citizens in Massachusetts that sings contemporary songs. However, Unfinished Song is fictional, and the focus is mainly on only one individual, not the whole group.

From the official description of this dramedy: “UNFINISHED SONG is the funny and uplifting story of Arthur (Terence Stamp), a curmudgeon old soul perfectly content with sticking to his dull daily routine until his beloved wife (Vanessa Redgrave) introduces him to a spirited local singing group led by the youthful and charming Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton).” Tagline: Music is the cure for the common crank.

“Funny” is not the main sentiment that comes to my own mind, though. Yes, there’s humor—and thankfully; but there’s also plenty of poignancy. 

The Trailer

Arthur and Marion: More About the Plot

Stephen Holden, New York Times:

The suds machine kicks in from the outset when Marion, who is being treated for cancer, learns she has only months to live. Her fiercely protective husband insists that she stay at home and rest, but Marion, a devoted chorister who is beloved among the group members, insists on continuing for as long as she can. After she dies, about halfway into the movie [Elizabeth] coaxes Arthur to join and participate in a regional choir competition.

No Ordinary Performances: More About The Stars

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: “What Stamp and Redgrave really accomplish here is to paint a portrait of a long marriage without resorting to flashbacks or expository dialogue. It’s in every look and gesture. In the film, a comment is made about the power of a voice being not in technique but in the journey it took to get there. Stamp and Redgrave and living embodiments of that philosophy. Just sit back and behold.”

Elizabeth Weitzman, New York Daily News: “Thank goodness, at least, for the sterling cast. In fact, you won’t find a better example of the ways in which craft and talent can elevate even the most rote material.”

Lou Lumenick, New York Post: “Stamp could not be better as a man set emotionally adrift when he loses the love of his life.”

Need a Good Cry?: More About What You’ll Feel

Tomas Hachard, NPR: “…Unfinished Song, which played festivals last year under the title Song for Marion, doesn’t earn its sentimentalism; instead it rolls through a series of cliched life lessons that never come close to exploring the film’s emotional territory with any depth or commitment.”

Stephen Holden, New York Times: “To gag or to weep, that is the question. You may do both while watching ‘Unfinished Song,’ a shamelessly sentimental, manipulative comic tear-jerker; a grumpy old man; and his saintly wife.”

Worth Seeing?: More from the Reviewers

Claudia Puig, USA Today: “A moving meditation on aging, illness, family conflicts and long relationships, Unfinished Song…also celebrates life and pays tribute to catchy songs.”

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone:Unfinished Song is Glee for seniors living in the hope of making it to nationals. Hold the cringes…Unfinished Song is better than Glee, way better. Nobody on that painfully-dying series has the talent of Stamp, 74, and Redgrave, 76, two acting legends who could breathe creative helium into anything, including this corpse of a script.”

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