VOD film review: Men Who Sing
James R | On 06, Nov 2021
Director: Dylan Williams
Cast: Dylan Williams, Ed Williams, Merf Richards, Ann Atkinson
Where to watch Men Who Sing online in the UK: Curzon Home Cinema
Tuesday nights mean many things to many people. Holby City on BBC One. Your favourite takeaway closed. But for Ed Williams, a 90-year-old widower in north Wales, Tuesdays mean one thing: choir practice. And Men Who Sing is a moving portrait of exactly that: the group of men who, on the second day of every week, meet up to harmonise with each other.
Director Dylan Williams doesn’t shy away from the personal nature of his documentary’s subject matter: Ed is his father and, 15 years after Dylan moved to Sweden to start a life there, the nonagenarian rang up his son to tell him he had sold the family home, cleared out his belongings into a skip and arranged his own funeral. And so Dylan hopped on a plane back to his childhood home of Rhyl, and what he found inspired him to pick up a camera and start filming.
Inspiring is certainly a word that comes to mind when listening to the Trelawnyd Male Voice Choir. Conducted by Ann Atkinson, the group was founded in 1933 and has been stretching its vocal chords ever since, from religious hymns to familiar showtunes and popular choruses. But with an average age of 74, the future of the group is uncertain, with Ed leading a hunt for new, younger recruits. (By younger, they mean men in their 40s and 50s.)
It’s low-stakes dilemma, but it’s one that carries a poignant, unspoken urgency, as the members of the choir are increasingly aware of their own passing years. And yet what’s endearing is how upbeat and positive many of them are in the face of struggle – and, in the case of one fearless fundraiser, walking on the wing of a plane. “Old age doesn’t last very long,” he chortles.
Spending time with these people is entertaining enough, especially when we get to hear them in action – including one memorable performance in a shopping centre where they’re all dressed as Santa Claus. But while the editing by Ben Stark (The Summit) and Magnus Svensson doesn’t miss a humorous beat, what makes Men Who Sings work is its gently melancholic, thoughtful mood – Williams’ intimate direction doesn’t just show us men who sing, but also captures why they do.
And so, as they busy themselves with trying to find a new bottom bass to fill out the low end of the ensemble, we immerse ourselves in a sensitive, sweet study of loneliness and old age, and the camaraderie found in finely tuned company. It’s adorable stuff – expect a Hollywood dramatisation imminently.