The film opens with exuberant Marion being pushed in a wheelchair into her weekly choir practice class by Arthur, her grumpy husband. Marion is met by the other pensioners that make up the groovy ‘The OAP-z’ led by, 20-something Elizabeth singing Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy and Salt ‘n’ Pepa’s, Let’s Talk About Sex. Yes, Calendar Girls just met The X Factor. But as Marion’s cancer becomes terminal, the film becomes more poignant as Elizabeth challenges Arthur’s silence and asks him to join the choir to help him restore his relationship with his son, James.
So why watch a film about some crazy pensioners? Because Song for Marion is not just for your grandparents, it reminds us about the importance of family and living in a community.
We see this clearly through the character of Elizabeth, (played by Gemma Arterton) who despite being single and in her 20s, would rather be leading a mis-matched old bunch for a singing practice then going out on a date with a potential boyfriend. Her unconventional musical choices unite the group around their past youth as she asks each one to make use of their personal gifts and raw talents, and this in turn empowers them to become like a dysfunctional but loving family.
However, Elizabeth’s involvement extends to outside the community hall as over time she begins giving lifts, attending hospital appointments and home visits to see Arthur. Despite Arthur’s pride, and personal mourning over Marion’s death, Elizabeth shows a great deal of patience towards him that eventually helps him to sing again. In turn Arthur respects her and loves her like an extended relation.
Elizabeth is almost a Christ-like character towards the group. As the conductor of the choir, she unites the pensioners and the community, helps restore relationships and breaks down the age conceptions that old people have died before their time.
Elizabeth reminds me of the importance of living in a church community, side-by-side and “forget[ing] yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand”, (Philippians 2:4 MSG). Maybe for you this means living closer to your grandparents, helping at the coffee morning or maybe even joining a local choir.
In the real world, we are easily caught up in living for ourselves. As young individuals it’s easy to run far away from any sense of care and responsibility, especially towards looking after the older generation. But if we are part of a local church, as well as serving older people, we can gain valuable biblical wisdom and insight by sitting next to the widow, the pensioner and the ex-missionaries in our churches. We might not want to ‘talk about sex’ with them, but we can worship and sing praises all together, regardless of our age.