Simon Dillon reviews this absorbing and satisfying film
Military Wives, the latest film from Peter Cattaneo (best known for The Full Monty) isn't going to change the course of cinema. Inspired by the real life story of the Military Wives choir and their inspirational legacy, the film is contrived, clichéd, sentimental, and predictable in everything from events to character arcs. However, all that said, it works very well, and I really rather liked it.
Whilst their partners are away on an Afghanistan tour, the wives at a UK military base keep themselves busy by forming a choir. Obviously they're terrible at first, but then they improve to the point where they get invited to play at the Royal Albert Hall Remembrance Service in London. Whilst there are no real narrative left turns, what makes this work are the well-written characters, especially the two women leading the choir whose personality clash forms the bulk of the drama. Kate (Kristin Scott Thomas, as excellent as ever) is a posh colonel's wife, who uses the choir to distract from the absence of her husband, and from the recent death of their son. She wants the choir to be purposeful and to strive for excellence, whereas Lisa (Sharon Horgan, also excellent), a plainspoken sergeant's wife, just wants the choir to give everyone a bit of fun singing 1980s pop classics. These two characters clash, develop mutual respect, bond, fall out, and..... Well, no points for guessing where it ends up.
Along the way, there are serious glimpses into the pressures, heartaches, and tragedies suffered by these women, as well as their incredible courage. All good storytelling puts the you in another person's shoes, and in this respect Military Wives succeeds admirably. One element of the postscript honours the now 75 strong Military Wives choirs that have sprung up as a result of the initial choir (and the hit single that followed). These women certainly deserve to be honoured.
All of which makes the film sound worthy and dull. It isn't. It is consistently entertaining throughout. There are - appropriately - less laughs than The Full Monty, and it won't do anything you don't expect, but it is a stirring and absorbing concoction, machine tooled for audience satisfaction. No bad thing, in this case.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
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