Sunday, July 21, 2013

Unfinished Song ...

Hello, everyone! I went to a Saturday afternoon matinee at the Fifth Avenue Cinema in Vancouver this past weekend and saw a wonderful movie I'd like to recommend to you. If you are a family caregiver or a helping professional wishing to understand the caregiving experience a little better, this is a movie to see - though you'll want to take along a box of kleenex if you're anything like me and my friend, Sandra.

Unfinished Song (or A Song for Marion, depending on where you live) is a 93 minute British - German production starring British actors, Vanessa Redgrave and Terence Stamp. Set in a dreary English council estate (public housing), the story describes the experience of a family dealing with the end-of-life. Marion has cancer. She is also a member of a senior's singing group called the OAP'z (Old Age Pensioners - with a z rather than an s for added pizzaz!) As she realizes that the only treatment left to her is "going home and eating all the chips and ice-cream she wants", she becomes motivated to join her group in a national singing competition.

Arthur, Marion's husband and primary caregiver, and a man who shields himself from all but her through gruff anger and withdrawal, loves her deeply and is terrified by the possibility of losing her. He worries that all the singing practices will be too much for her and he tries to convince her to stay home. (A familiar conflict among so many caregivers and care recipients.)

In a parallel storyline, we see that Arthur's earlier life experiences and British stoic mentality, have led to a parenting style that has both hurt and alienated his son, James. James, in turn, is doing all in his power to raise his own daughter with a more open heart. The interventions of the young singing group leader, Elizabeth, eventually create space for healing and moving on. I won't spoil the film by telling you the rest of the story - I hope you will go and see it for yourselves.

What I will say is that the main characters are impeccably acted by Redgrave and Stamp, to say nothing of the quality of acting by other three main characters. Terence Stamp manages to portray the anxious, raw, irritability of caregiving, and it's underlying chronic sorrow, to perfection. Some of his conversations with Marion could have been mine with my own husband, so authentic were they. The elegant, articulate and beautiful Vanessa Redgrave risks looking and acting the part of an elderly woman in the late stages of cancer and she does it understatedly and superbly.

I would be remiss if I didn't also mention the energy, humour and wonderful voices of the seniors in tie-dyed T-shirts, singing choral arrangements of Metallica, who make up Marion's singing cohort. You'll find yourself smiling all over your face as you watch them sing and catch their zest for life.

While the plot is a little predictable, Unfinished Song is a rich and honest story that Huffington-Post  reviews like this:

Yes, it's a weepy one. But it's also a really good rich tale that builds ideas and deepens characters until the heartstrings snap and you can't help but cry. It's good to feel stuff. And this movie is full of the best sort of feelings.

I guarantee that it won't be long until this lovely movie finds its way into one of my caregivers workshops. Enjoy!

No comments: