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A fictional companion of sorts to 2007 doc Young At Heart , it’s a life-affirming tearjerker. And yet it feels just as genuine as the director’s gritty 2006 debut London To Brighton .
Terence Stamp plays Arthur, a curmudgeonly pensioner whose only fun in life seems to be playing dominos in the pub.
A distant, cold father, his relationship with son James (Christopher Eccleston) is strained and he resents the time his wife Marion (Vanessa Redgrave) spends singing in a local choir called the OAPZ.
Run by Gemma Arterton’s sparky teacher, the choir practices contemporary pop instead of hymns. (Salt-n-Pepa’s ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’ forms part of their repertoire.)
Yet if this view of the over-sixty-fives is a little cringey, Williams’ portrayal of Arthur and Marion’s relationship is spot on - notably when she falls terminally ill and Arthur is left to care for her, his love choked by his inability to express it properly.
Never straying too far towards either morbidity or mawkish sentiment, Williams judges the tone well. And he’s backed up by Redgrave’s spirited turn as Marion who, despite her illness, insists on carrying on with the choir.
With a national singing competition approaching, you sense that a third act is lying in wait where the minnows triumph against the odds.
Thankfully, it’s never quite so predictable.
Yes, some moments feel off-key, and it’s hard to believe that Arterton’s young, attractive teacher has a social life so moribund she can invest all her time in the OAPZ.
Mostly thanks to the towering Terence Stamp, though, you’ll be hard-pressed not to shed a tear or two by the end.
There may be the odd bum note but Williams’ film is largely on song and full of genuine, heartfelt emotion. Stamp’s masterclass in melancholy is something to behold.
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