A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Unfinished Song is a heart-rending dramedy about an ill woman's quest to live a little -- and her husband's lessons on how to live at all, despite huge challenges. Because a central theme of the movie is facing imminent death from cancer, it sometimes gets too intense for younger kids, though teens should be able to handle it. There are many deeply sad and affecting moments, so bring plenty of tissue. Expect some innuendo, and some of the lyrics of the songs that Marion's choir sings (to an audience that includes kids) are raunchy. Dialogue includes words like "s--t" and "bloody," and there's some smoking and drinking.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Arthur (Terence Stamp) is a misanthrope who doesn't much see why his darling wife, Marion (Vanessa Redgrave), makes such a fuss over her singing class. He's glad she finds joy in it, but most of the time, he thinks it's silly standing around singing -- and singing pop, rock, and heavy metal songs at that. Still, he helps Marion get to and from the classes, content to listen in once in a while. Then Marion finds out that the cancer she thought she had defeated has come back, leaving Arthur reeling and feeling even more distant from their only son (Christopher Eccleston). But Marion's nosy but well-meaning choir director (Gemma Arterton) won't let Arthur lose sight of what's important or avoid the growth that comes from facing your own demons. Can he rise to the occasion?
Is it any good?
Don't expect UNFINISHED SONG to forge new paths to its heartwarming and heartbreaking ending. Movies of this type -- about how loss and a deep sense of mortality can change your life, and you -- have been around for ages. But, oh, what a sweet addition to the subgenre it is, even if the basic premise -- how music shapes a cancer-stricken woman and her husband in profound ways -- isn't exactly original. Its plot points can easily be mapped, because we've seen them all before.
Still, it's hard to argue with the life force that is Redgrave, who meets her match in Stamp's maddening but endearing Arthur. Arterton borders on treacly, but she's charming anyway (and, besides, treacly fits her character). Even though the premise -- seniors learn to loosen up by singing pop songs -- isn't wholly new (the documentary, Young @ Heart covers this ground quite well) and everything feels slightly gimmicky because the seniors are painted with broad strokes, it's still worth it. UNFINISHED SONG is moving and affecting, albeit more of a ditty than a substantial song that will last through the ages.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether Marion is a role model. If so, how? What about the other characters?
What does Unfinished Song bring to the table when it comes to movies about characters and their loved ones dealing with imminent death? Is it cliched or inspired?
Why are there so few movies and TV shows that feature older characters? Teens: Does a movie's appeal to you depend on the age of its cast/characters? Why?
- In theaters: June 21, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: September 24, 2013
- Cast: Gemma Arterton, Terence Stamp, Vanessa Redgrave
- Director: Paul Andrew Williams
- Studio: Weinstein Co.
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship
- Run time: 93 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some sexual references and rude gestures
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