Starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Sharon Horgan, Emma Lowndes, Jason Flemyng
Finally, a somewhat uplifting VOD release for the Stay Homer’s desperate for new feature film content. Although “Military Wives” missed the prime Mother’s Day release window, Peter Cattaneo’s (“The Full Monty”) film shines a light on the often unsung heroes of the military: Wives and their resilience to support those defending freedoms. Based on a true story that inspired military families all over Europe, the film version has Oscar nominated actress Kristin Scott Thomas (“Darkest Hour”, The English Patient) playing another overbearing character, the kind the English & French actress built a career on. Thomas headlines the cast but shines equally with television and film star Sharon Horgan (“Game Night”). The film has moments of levity, tragedy and heartwarming scenes of people coming together. The downside here would be the predictability of the narrative and it’s inevitable conclusion.
In 2011, at a small base-camp outside of London, a group of military wives and children say goodbye to their loved ones deploying to Afghanistan. Kate (Thomas) has become familiar with the routine, waving off husband Corp. Richard (Greg Wise). This tour, her fifth is particularly difficult, since her son didn’t come home from the last one. Lisa (Horgan) has been put in charge of organizing events for the wives on the base, but Kate throws her weight and experience around at the social gatherings, where a choir group is suggested. Kate and Lisa are pleasantly adversarial on what music to sing, who sings what parts and how the group should be conducted. Turns out they are quite good, and not only develop a distraction for themselves, but are invited to London to perform on remembrance day.
Thomas reminds us of her talent, she performs the role in a way we can simultaneously despise and empathize within a single scene.
Funny, sad and triumphant are the three acts of Rosanne Flynn and Rachel Tunnard’s script. It’s the modern character, citing The Beatles way of doing things versus the classically minded one championing Mozart. Like the women singing, we as an audience get caught up in their mission when the impending tragedy occurs, shattering the characters diversion and our disillusion of what this film is really about. It’s the second act where Thomas reminds us of her talent. Similar to her character Annie MacLean in “The Horse Whisperer”, she performs the role in a way we can simultaneously despise and empathize within a single scene. Outside of performance and charm, there isn’t much else to this little film, but the climactic performance in Royal Albert Hall is quite moving despite your feelings on the rest of the film.
“Keep busy,” Kate charges throughout the film, certainly good advice for people shut inside during a pandemic. “Military Wives” is a useful film during this time, not simply as a distraction, but it’s championing of a coping mechanism that could in turn provide inspiration to others or catharsis to ones self. “Military Wives” is yet another example of a film that was glossed over at last years Toronto International Film Festival, yet through unforeseen circumstance, has become suitable in a way un-calculated during production. Ironic how during times of peace we crave films that move, challenge and demand our attention. Yet during war or in this case a pandemic, our appetite for what we watch changes a bit. “Military Wives” will be available for purchase on demand 5/22.
“Military Wives” provides an unintentional glimmer of hope to our frayed, stay home, nerves.