Writer/director Paul Andrew Williams first grabbed my attention with the excellent, and blisteringly nasty, London to Brighton (2006). It’s almost inconceivable that he’s made something as sweet as this. But the director is notable for the contrasting genres he embraces.
Marion (Vanessa Redgrave) is terminally ill and nursed by her loyal but curmudgeonly husband Arthur (Terence Stamp). Marion refuses to stop attending the pensioner’s choir at her local community centre led by Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton) - much to Arthur’s chagrin. The choir, dubbed “The OAP’Z” enter a singing competition performing hits as unlikely as Motorhead’s Ace of Spades. Arthur is drawn unwillingly into the proceedings, and inspired to heal the relationship with his estranged son, James (Christopher Eccleston).
It would take a cold heart to go unmoved by this. It’s as much weepie as it is feelgood – this softy reviewer shed more than a few manly tears - but amidst the pathos it has plenty of big belly laughs. Surely it’s impossible not to be amused by a bunch of pensioners performing Salt-n-Pepa’s Let’s Talk About Sex. (I should add the arrangements of all these tunes are really quite inspired.) I laughed along with them all in a joyously life-affirming fashion.
In terms of cinema receipts, this will certainly help the ever-strengthening grey pound but it’s certainly not just a film for oldies. I thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish. It has a gentle charm with an ever-present realism. The assured direction and savvy script make it satisfyingly engaging and the leads are eminently watchable. Vanessa Redgrave is wonderful in the role – twinkling and, ironically, so alive – as this woman facing death. Terence Stamp reveals a tenderness I’m unfamiliar with (and he sings too). The two actors make a believable, and very touching, couple of many years. And former Bond Girl Arterton is [in the understatement of the year] rather easy on the eye.
It was the perfect film to see with my mum on this Mothering Weekend. (Happy Mothering Sunday, Mum.) Go and see it. It’ll make your heart sing.