Sometimes a film can be completely underestimated due to its advertising campaign. One look at the campaign around English film Military Wives and you would swear that you were in for a light and fluffy film in the vein of The Full Monty. However, after sitting down to watch the film the audience will soon see that this is a film that packs a little bit more punch than what you would expect.
From director Peter Cattaneo, who yes did direct The Full Monty, Military Wives loosely tells the tale of a group of women who started a choir on a military base – a phenomenon which has now been repeated right around the world.
The idea was the brain-child of Army wife Lisa (Sharon Horgan – Game Night) who decides that a choir would be a good distraction for a group of Army wives while their husbands are off fighting in Afghanistan. Her idea doesn’t run smoothly though – first she finds opposition from the base’s matriarch – Kate (Kristin Scott Thomas – The English Patient) who feels that she should be the one that is running the choir.
Kate then tries to hijack the choir with her older style music while the choir itself almost implodes when it is realised that most of the women can’t sing while Lisa also finds the choir dominates her time meaning that she is neglecting her rebellious daughter, Frankie (India Amarteifio – Doctor Who), who is also suffering due to the fact that her father is currently fighting overseas.
The way in which Cattaneo manages to mix humour with some deep, emotional storylines in Military Wives is sheer filmmaking brilliance. There is the odd laugh here and there that all seem to hit their mark but Cattaneo alongside his screenwriting team also take this movie into some rarely explored in cinema areas. Outwardly these women all try to be strong but inwardly that is far from the truth. As a film Miitary Wives looks at the stress and anxiety that Army wives feel as their partners are away at war and it is these moments during the film that makes this film more than watchable.
The screenplay allows for every character to have their own personality and the result is a beautiful film that takes the audience through a range of emotions as the characters on screen all go through various situations throughout the film. From a young newly-wed wife sending her partner off to war through to a teenage girl who deals with her father being deployed by partying and getting drunk every night. Then without spoiling to much comes the angst and worry as word filters through that the group containing the partners/fathers has been attacked.
Of course there is a good light-hearted side to the film as well – and a lot of that comes through the music. From a new Robbie Williams song through to modern day hits from Dido and a swag of well known 80s classics Military Wives has a soundtrack that not only lifts the mood but will also have the audience singing along in much the same way that Pitch Perfect did.
All of that aside though the power of this film comes from its two leads. Kristen Scott Thomas is brilliant as the hard-lined Kate. Thomas portrayal of Kate deserves to be award winning as her character is more complex than originally meets the eye. When there are some great scenes where Thomas and Horgan clash heads there are other times in the film where Thomas portrays Kate as a caring character that is suffering just as much as the others. Her back-story in itself is enough to break the average person.
Thomas is well matched opposite Horgan who herself also puts in an amazing performance. Likewise her scenes with Thomas are emotionally charged and some of the highlights of the film. She also shares some memorable scenes with young India Armarteifio and I can only hope that we see her in more films over the years.
Military Wives is a surprisingly emotional film that goes a lot further than the fluffy feeling you would expect from a film in this genre. Its look at what life is like for military families is rare in the cinematic world and it contains several scenes that will really stay with you long after you have watched the film.