I’m sure I don’t have to tell you all how stressful life is at the moment. With little discernable light at the end of the tunnel, I’m always on the lookout for a bit of respite, a few hours where I can relax and forget about all the distressing things going on in the world. Last week I stumbled across a British film that provided a very welcome distraction, a feel-good comedy (with a touch of drama) called Military Wives.
A little background is necessary before diving into the plot of the movie. Military Wives was inspired by real spouses and partners of British soldiers serving in Afghanistan who formed a women’s choir as an outlet to express their feelings and relieve some anxiety. A season of the BBC reality show The Choir was dedicated to their formation and resulted in a U.K. chart-topping charity single, “Wherever You Are,” in 2011.
In the film version, when troops of the fictional Flitcroft military base are sent to the Middle East, their spouses and partners shift into deployment mode. The wives of the higher-ranking officers are responsible for planning activities for those left behind to keep their worried minds occupied and to provide a much-needed morale boost.
On this particular tour of duty, the women in charge have very different ideas on how to engage and support their sisters in arms. The colonel’s wife, Kate, played by Dame Kristen Scott Thomas (of Four Weddings and a Funeral and The English Patient fame) is decorum and stiff upper lip personified. Catastrophe’s Sharon Horgan plays free-spirited Lisa who, up until her husband’s promotion, was just one of the girls. When the pair attempt to work together their mutual stubbornness and tangible dislike of one another tends to get in the way.
After knitting club and coffee mornings fail to inspire, the women of Flitcroft agree to give singing a go. Of course, Kate wants them to practice scales and sing dreary hymns while Lisa and her pals prefer to dip into the catalog of songs from their youth. The choir’s start is rocky to be sure but with a little patience, practice, and the right acoustics the group starts to improve.
While it was never a goal of the choir to sing for anyone but themselves, a visiting commander likes what he hears and procures an invitation for the Flitcroft ladies to perform at the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall of all places. Talk about pressure!
Various problems ensue leading up to the big performance, but it’s not the applause or the public praise that motivate these women. It’s about the sense of trust, community and inner-strength they built by banding together.
At this point, let me say that Military Wives isn’t a revelation in filmmaking. This root-for-the-underdog picture doesn’t rise to the level of The Full Monty (which is my all-time favorite example of that genre) despite being helmed by the same director, Peter Cattaneo. The story tends to drag in spots and more time could have been spent developing the delightful supporting characters.
But in times like these, Military Wives offers plenty of what we need- a chance to smile, banish isolation, let the music lift our spirits, and appreciate the power of friendship for a few hours.
You can stream this comforting little flick on Hulu and Kanopy (an on-demand streaming video platform for public libraries). Check out the full-length trailer below. Do you think you’ll give Military Wives a watch or pass it by?