In 2008 Peg and I saw Young@Heart at Tacoma’s Grand Cinema. The documentary was about a senior citizen choir who did cover songs by Jimi Hendrix, Coldplay, Sonic Youth, and others. While it was interesting it’s not really related to Unfinished Song, but may have helped inspire the storyline.
Unfinished Song principles: Director & Writer Paul Andrew Williams
Stars – Terence Stamp, Gemma Arterton, and Vanessa Redgrave
I found Unfinished Song on Roku. I’ve never really ever been a fan of Terence Stamp, but now I will have to rethink my attitude. I knew Unfinished Song was going to be a tear-jerker for me when Marion (played by Vanessa Redgrave) is staying in the hospital and Arthur (played by Terence Stamp) is lying in bed at home, reaches out with his left hand and sets it on the bed where his wife should be . . . and just leaves it there.
Unfinished Song is a London-set comedic drama. When I see American films, people of color generally look like the producers are pandering and simply trying to present that everyone is equal and normal. In British films, people of color seem natural and not like they’ve been planted to appease anyone. In Unfinished Song the large group of elderly singers look natural.
The film is about a shy, grumpy pensioner Arthur who reluctantly promises his beloved wife Marion to support the highly unconventional local choir she belongs to and participate. After her death he is at odds with his son James and can’t seem to heal old wounds.
Charismatic choir director Elizabeth tries to persuade Arthur that he can learn to embrace life. Arthur must confront his own actions. On again-off again reactions by Arthur bring life to the senior choir. Elizabeth encourages participation by all with an emphasis on pure enjoyment and fun as she introduces the seniors to more current rock and roll songs than they may have been aware of. One of my favorite scenes has Arthur listening at an open window while the choir is practicing. The song is Let’s Talk About Sex by Salt N Pepa and two young teenagers crowd up to the window in interest.
A big concert hall where they’ve come to perform, has a problem with the choir. They are dressed in tie-dyed shirts and slacks, not wearing suits and fancy dresses. They are honoring the era the music comes from.
Gemma Arterton learned to play the piano for her role as choir director in the film and played the accompanying background.
Unfinished Song Trailer – imdb.com/video/vi2044438297
Unfinished Song Trailer 2 – imdb.com/video/vi3119424537
User Review – Good Grief!
“How did they pitch this? QUARTET meets CALENDAR GIRLS? Vanessa Redgrave plays a Senior Citizen (in the north of England) dying from cancer who somehow finds the strength to sing with a local choir of fellow OAPs. Her grumpy old git of a husband (Terence Stamp) wants her to stay home and greet the Grim Reaper while he (Arthur) tenderly cares for her, but – guess what? The sub-plot involving Arthur and his estranged son (Christopher Eccleston) is over-familiar but also touching – he even has a cute smarty-pants daughter cloned from Shirley Temple.
OK, this is a very predictable story which shamelessly milks tears from the audience, but there is some pleasing humour as well as the somewhat heavy-handed tragedy. The performances – what did you expect from Redgrave and Stamp? – are nothing less than stellar. I see nominations for BAFTAs and maybe even next year’s Oscars. Stamp gives perfectly judged grief. Gemma Arterton is excellent as the choir-mistress with an unhappy love life and it’s a joy to see Anne Reid in the chorus line. All the supporting cast of yesteryear character players are splendid, as they were in QUARTET. Pensioner power is beginning to have an impact at the box office – about time too!
This is lightweight entertainment pitched at the Grey Pound and it is outrageously mawkish, but it sets out to warm the stoniest of hearts and it certainly warmed mine.”
Interesting Film Details:
The choir in the film is played partly by actors, partly by members of an actual choir with little or no previous acting experience. When casting additional choir members who would appear beside the professional actors, preference was given to people with the ability to have fun over those with possibly better voices or singing ability.
Terence Stamp turned down the role of King Arthur in Camelot (1967). He didn’t think he could do justice to the songs. This is funny because Richard Burton played Arthur on Broadway and Richard Harris was chosen for the role in the film, both of whom don’t sing! Stamp was afraid his voice would end up being dubbed over. In the film, Vanessa Redgrave played the female lead to Richard Harris’s Arthur. In Unfinished Song, Terence Stamp and Vanessa Redgrave play the long-time married couple
If you’ve lost someone and have made it this far in the review, you might want to add one more tear with Billy Joel’s Lullaby (Goodnight, My Angel) performed by VOCES8 & The King’s Singers:
Terence Stamp as Arthur, sings the Lullaby solo at the competition.