For many of us the States, a quick glimpse of the title “Military Wives” could be misleading. It’s actually a reference to a broad network of choirs made up of women from the British military communities. The original idea was to bring women together while their husbands were deployed, offering them support and the opportunity to express themselves. The Military Wives Choir has grown exponentially and is present in British military bases across the world.
“Military Wives” comes from director Peter Cattaneo and the writing duo of Rachel Tunnard and Rosanne Flynn. It’s inspired by the formation of the very first military wives choir and focuses on a group of women brought together after their partners are deployed to Afghanistan. The film has all the workings of a classic feel-good crowd-pleaser down to some pretty predictable story beats. But even though you can see certain emotionally-charged scenes coming from a mile away, they’re still handled earnestly and respectfully. You can’t help but be affected.
The film features a great pairing of Kristin Scott Thomas and Sharon Horgan. Both play wives at Flitcroft Garrison who couldn’t be more different. Kate (Scott Thomas) is the wife of the ranking officer (Greg Wise) and carries a lot of clout around the base. She’s also viewed as a bit stuffy by the other women. Lisa (Horgan) is more freethinking straight-shooter who most of the other wives seem to love.
The call to service comes and soldiers leave for a 6-month tour in Afghanistan where escalating tensions add an extra layer of stress for the women left behind. The wives do their best to create an atmosphere of normalcy, but it’s tough when every ring of the phone or buzz of the doorbell brings a jolt of fear. It’s the reason Kate constantly reminds the others “It’s very important to keep busy.” It’s what she does to keep from dwelling on her own son’s recent combat-related death.
As the ones in charge of organizing social activities, Kate and Lisa put together a choir although with very different ideas on what it should be. Kate takes a professional approach while Lisa thinks it should be fun and easygoing. It leads to several funny clashes between two really good actresses. Scott Thomas is a shrewd screen veteran who makes every movie she’s in better. Horgan, best known for her television work, is a terrific foil.
I probably don’t have to tell you where the story goes from there. The movie’s biggest problem is its predictability. Nothing in it will catch you by surprise. It uses the same basic story structure as so many movies before it. The relationships, though fun, come together exactly how you would expect. But what it lacks in originality it makes up for in heart. “Military Wives” plays out like a thoughtful, well-meaning tribute to a those married into the military, a group too often forgotten. The characters make us care and the performances are authentic enough to make the familiarity less of an issue.
VERDICT – 3.5 STARS