Military Wives

***

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Military Wives
"You don't need the sheet music to know that this is a familiar tune and the film does lean into all the expected emotional beats heavily." | Photo: Lionsgate

Peter Cattaneo is a safe pair of hands to direct this feel-good comedy drama given that he has The Fully Monty in his back catalogue. This film channels emotions similar to that along with - given its female-centric narrative and its 'inspired by a true story' element - the more recent Calendar Girls and Made In Dagenham.

Sisters, as they say, are about to do it for themselves, this time on an Army base - and its interesting that, for once, a man has been written out of the story. This is because, although the film is based on one of the singing groups Gareth Malone founded in his hit BBC series The Choir, no trace of Malone remains in this female-empowerment tale. Here, the driving force honours are given to Kristin Scott Thomas and Sharon Horgan, who star as posh colonel's wife Kate and the more working class sergeant's wife Lisa. The chief tension - and success - of the film lies in the relationship that develops between the two of them when Lisa, who has reluctantly taken up the role of keeping up homefront morale while the men are on a dangerous tour of duty in Afghanistan, finds herself locking horns with Kate over the domestic battle plan.

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They set up a choir and things don't exactly go harmoniously from the start but, unsurprisingly, things gradually start to come together. You don't need the sheet music to know that this is a familiar tune and the film does lean into all the expected emotional beats heavily - occasionally straying close to parody, such as when a couple overhear the choir having a impromptu session in a disused railway tunnel. The large cast means that it's hard for the scriptwriters Rosanne Flynn, Rachel Tunnard to give more than a broad sketch of most of the characters - although they deserve credit for acknowledging the diversity of the forces and the hidden stresses that weigh on the spouses - and its left to the two main women to power the film forward.

Scott Thomas - in the sort of role Helen Mirren used to eat for breakfast - brings an impressive amount of nuance to her character, who is grappling with the loss of her son as well as the same worry all the other wives have for the men who are away. She adds such a degree of emotional weight to her part of the script that the portion left for Horgan's Lisa, who is dealing with the antics of teenage daughter Frankie (India Amarteifio) feels scrappy by comparison. Despite its familiarity, the solid feel-good formula does the job it sets out to - the old tunes might not quite be the best, but there's no denying they're reliable.

Reviewed on: 06 Mar 2020
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Comedy drama about singing spouses on a military base.

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Calendar Girls
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