Stars: Terence Stamp, Vanessa Redgrave, Gemma Arterton, Christopher Eccleston
Director: Paul Andrew Williams
Genre: Comedy/ Drama/ Musical
Arthur (Terence Stamp) is a cranky old Brit. He's cranky with his wife, Marion, (Vanessa Redgrave) who is in ill health and not long for this world. And he's especially cranky with their son, James, (Christopher Eccleston) a rather hapless sort who needs to be prodded to come and sit with his mother while Arthur tends to other things. Arthur and son don't get on with each other-- they've never really been that close, apparently, but there is no background provided on why that might be.
Marion, in her waning days, is a member of a senior citizen glee club led by Elizabeth, (Gemma Arterton) a perky young woman who thinks it's cute to get them to sing hi-hop and other semi-modern songs like, "Let's Think About Sex" (baybeeee) and have them do the robot. We learn next to nothing about her though, except for the one time when she gets weepy about a broken relationship.
The pensioners are all sort of cute in their ineptness, as one and then another gets carted away after pulling or straining something. And while they have lots of on-screen time, they are all just extras, really, because besides Marion, none are even partially developed as characters. And therein we have the main flaw of Unfinished Song--the lack of character development (other than the shining performances of Stamp and Redgrave)--providing and unintended irony to the film's title.
In the beginning, the plot centers around Marion's stiff upper lip in the face of her terminal diagnosis. When she passes on, Unfinished Song becomes Arthur's story--a tale of redemption in how choir director Elizabeth gradually brings him out of his shell to get on with the business of living--getting involved with the choir himself as they prepare for a big competition they've been invited to participate in.
There will be plenty of moist eyes in the theater when the emotionally manipulative Unfinished Song is finished. The most effective films manipulate you, but you don't mind because what they're doing isn't all that obvious and it takes you by surprise--like a marionette performance where you don't notice the strings. In Unfinished Song, however, those strings are clearly visible.
Grade: B --