Directed by: Peter Cattaneo
Premise: Based on true events. The wives of British military service people form a choir. They are led by a pair of women (Kristin Scott Thomas and Sharon Horgan) with very different personalities and they must overcome their differences to succeed.
What Works: Military Wives is fundamentally a getting-the-band together movie and it is a feel-good picture. The movie is about women from different backgrounds and social statuses who are brought together by the commonality of their family’s involvement with the military. The filmmakers successfully exploit the appeal of a group coming together in common cause and Military Wives tells a pleasant and affirming story of cooperation without being unnecessary sentimental. The picture is led by Kristin Scott Thomas and Sharon Horgan. Scott Thomas plays Kate, the wife of a senior officer who assumes control of the women’s social activities on the military base. Early on that is cause for resentment especially from Lisa, played by Sharon Horgan. Kate’s tastes are upper-class while Lisa and many of the other women have more proletariat sensibilities. Their personalities and conflicts are well defined in a few early scenes so that we get a sense of who these women are and the tensions between them. The transformation of Kate and Lisa’s relationship is organic and mostly credible. Kate grieves her deceased son and Lisa struggles with single parenthood while her husband is deployed. Kristin Scott Thomas and Sharon Horgan give complex performances, working off one another and revealing the tension while rarely giving into it. Watching these women come together and lead their fellow military spouses to group cohesion and musical success is very satisfying.
What Doesn’t: The supporting cast of Military Wives is mostly under-characterized. The film introduces ideas and subplots among its supporting characters and then fails to use those subplots to full effect. Lisa’s teenage daughter (India Ria Amarteifio) acts out rebelliously but the story never gets to the bottom of her motivations and the resolution of this subplot is too quick and tidy. Sarah (Amy James-Kelly) is a military wife who is widowed in the course of the story. This is a film about the experiences of military families when their loved ones go off to war but the filmmakers graze over her grief as well as the challenge to the widow’s sense of identity and purpose when her spouse is killed. As a result, Military Wives plays primarily as a getting-the-band-together story as opposed to a home front drama.
DVD extras: Featurettes.
Bottom Line: Military Wives is a fine family friendly drama. The movie tends to underplay some of the unique qualities of its story and characters but Military Wives succeeds as a piece of feel-good musical entertainment.
Episode: #826 (November 8, 2020)