“Unfinished Song” is the best movie I have seen this year since “Amour” in January. Like other films in this genre a lot of tears are shed, couples have been married for 50 years or more, the wife is dying and the husband has to learn how to cope. In “Amour” Emmanuelle Riva has Alzheimer’s and her husband Jean Louis Trintignant is her caretaker as in “Iris” Jim Broadbent had to deal with the dementia of Judi Dench and in “Away From Her” Julie Christie is institutionalized for her Alzheimer’s and her husband Gordon Pinsent deals with her problem, and his, of her not knowing him. In “Still Mine” James Broadbent deals with Genevieve Bujold’s dementia.
Among other things these films have in common, aside from the wife dying, the husband suffering and learning in their own ways how to cope, are that the leads have all been nominated for an Oscar just as the leads in “Unfinished Song” and “Still Mine” are getting Oscar buzz, which is understandable, as they are all some of the best actors of their generation.
Terence Stamp made his film debut in 1962 and 51 years ago got his first Oscar nomination and in 1965 was a standout in the title role of “The Collector” for which he won the best actor award at the Cannes Film Festival. With eyes as blue as ever and even with a bald spot he is still one of the best looking men in films and here he also sings. Vanessa Redgrave won an Oscar for “Julia” and has done over 35 stage performances in addition to over 80 movies and a number of television shows and has won accolades for every performance she has ever given. She, too, sings in “Unfinished Song” doing a solo of “True Colors” that you have never heard before and will have you in tears.
Arthur (Stamp) and Marion (Redgrave) are complete opposites with he being difficult and she being full of life and smiles. From the first shot, and no matter how many times they say “I love you” to each other, you believe that neither ever would, or could, be happy with someone else.
The screenwriter, who also directed, Paul Andrew Williams, has made a film of cliches such as the estranged son played by Christopher Eccleston who doesn’t seem to have a wife but does have an adorable daughter, Jennifer, (Orla Hill). Though Arthur has time and love for his granddaughter he doesn’t seem to have either for his son. It is never explained but possibly Arthur’s love for Marion consumed him. Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton) is a music teacher during the day who conducts a choir of senior citizens in the evening and, yes, every cliche of old people is on the screen. All of the cast gives fine performances but it is Redgrave and Stamp that lift this film above the ordinary. Though neither are singers they can certainly sell a song.
Now we need movies about old folks that break this mold. And I have to add after 2 months of 'summer epic, action, tentpoles' with crashes, car chases, breaking class, body counts' it was nice to see a movie with the loudest noise being a heavy metal song sung by seniors!