Director: Paul Andrew Williams
Cast: Terence Stamp, Gemma Arterton, Christopher Ecclestone and Vanessa Redgrave
Plot: Arthur (Stamp) looks after his terminally ill wife (Redgrave) putting up with her strong links to the local senior’s choir. However, he is forced to make tough decisions, when her illness takes a turn for the worst.
Entering the cinema, the first thing that struck me was how empty the movie theatre was. There were a couple of older couples and the odd group of friends, but other than that, it was isolated. My first thought was great, because I could sneakily pinch the VIP seats, but as the movie began, it was quite sad that this movie hadn’t caught the attention of a wider audience. It was a really beautiful film.
It is the simplicity of the story that makes it appealing. There are no real surprises in the story and the audience can see what is coming every step of the way. There is one midway point, where a dark twist is made, but in all honesty, it is pretty easy to see coming. It is the main reason people come to see this movie. But with a clear storyline in place, we know what to expect from the film and that has its own benefits.
It is very sad. It will try its best to get a tear from you, but at the same time, it has some sweet, happy moments, especially when the choir get going, that make all of the low points worth it. The high points of the movie come from some of the numbers that the choir come out with. The highlight of the movie is Vanessa Redgrave singing ‘True Colours’, summoning up emotion that wouldn’t look out of place in ‘Les Miserables’. If a tear of happiness doesn’t get coaxed out of you, a smile definitely will.
Not that the sad moments are awful. In fact, they are the driving point of the film, as Arthur punishes himself, by distancing himself from his son (Ecclestone) and giving up everything he enjoys, thinking himself undeserving of happiness. The dialogue is simple, sometimes just getting the odd grunt from Stamp’s character, but when he does let out his true feelings, you will get that raw feeling in your throat.
This is mainly thanks to a terrific performance from Stamp. Veteran actors often settle for lesser films in their older age, like De Niro, Walken and Michael Caine, yet Stamp is the kind of actor, who only takes a role he truly believes in. This is Terence Stamp has you have never seen him before, yet he is marvellous with the character. He is stubborn, miserable and at times, there is a childlike quality to his ageing character. When his character is vulnerable, yet crippled with his own pride, Stamp shines with his performance. He is the central part of the film, really bringing all of the director’s elements together.
It is tough to call who is the best actor of the film. An argument could be made that Redgrave just steals the show, despite only getting half the screen time. Her character is a happy-go-lucky girl, who bravely faces Death and refuses to let her expiry date get the best of her. As the eponymous character, she certainly delivers. The most extraordinary thing about the performance is how close to home it would have hit the actress. 2012 saw her lose her brother, sister and daughter, so it was very brave of the actress to face her own mortality and portray it so heart-warmingly. She deserves a good portion of the credit for this film.
The other actors are hardly rubbish though. This is the kind of film I have been waiting for Gemma Arterton to make and Christopher Ecclestone, as ever, does not fail the audience. The OAPs don’t have overly much to do, but they are fun to watch and the director spends the time in between the important scenes showing us their antics. In fact, I think more of them needed to be shown.
All in all, it was a very good movie. The one bad point I have to make about it is again the simplicity of the plot. There are no surprises, and while we all know what we paid for, there is a sense that you have already seen the movie, before it has begun. It wouldn’t be worth a second viewing if it wasn’t for some of the beautiful tunes sung by Redgrave and Stamp.
Final verdict: An emotional rollercoaster, which takes you from a sobbing mess to a laughing fool. Simple, yet beautiful to watch.
Next week: Safe Haven