Writer/director Williams departs from his more typical horror and mayhem to create this heart-warming tale. It appears to be a serious turning point in his career given the next couple of films he has queued up (Close Enough and Miss You Already).
While I don’t like describing movies in terms of mash-ups of other movies, it always feels like some kind of cheap elevator pitch, sometimes it is the the best way to nail the sensibility. With that in mind, Unfinished Song is part Young @ Heart and part Amour, with the best of both. And, unlike the recent, and also thematically related, Quartet, its humor is much more subtle.
Your willingness to commit to Unfinished Song is due primarily to Redgrave and Stamp’s portrayal of an old married couple, utterly devoted to one another in the kind of shorthand decades of love and life together creates. Redgrave (Coriolanus, Venus) gives us a wonderfully strong woman in crisis, and also in control. But it is Stamp, who has played roles from psychopathic (The Limey) to sublime (Priscilla Queen of the Desert), around who the story really spins. And here, again, he turns in a character who’s inner self is held back by the thinnest of membranes from bursting onto the world.
In addition to Stamp and Redgrave, Eccleston (Thor: The Dark World), and Arterton (Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters) provide support. Eccleston’s role is rather thankless, but necessary. He makes it work, but manages, despite his typical energy and intensity, to completely cede the screen to Stamp. Arterton is solid, if a little, purposefully, out of place in both the cast and the story. There is a lot more to her character than was in the final cut; while inferred, it was a shame to lose that subplot. Given that the film is 90 minutes, there was time, though perhaps not enough focus, to allow the necessary scenes in. That gap in plot does not ruin the story for having lost it, but I didn’t feel I got to know and understand her. As the the catalyst for everything, I was curious about her life. Finally, keep an eye out for Reid (Last Tango in Halifax) who gets a small role and bit of influence along with other familiar faces.
As a turning point in a director’s career, This is a film worth noting. With a cast like this has, how can you miss it? And, OK, I admit I can be a bit of a sap. And, yes, this movie is more than a little manipulative, but it does so quietly enough that you are more than willing to be swept along with the story. It is a beautifully, if slightly hyperbolic, bitter-sweet tale of life, love, and old age. But it is also, at its gooey center, a story of self-affirmation that will leave you a tad happily misty.