Kristin Scott Thomas, Sharon Horgan, Jason Flemyng, Emma Lowndes
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
…superficial and flashy.
Military Wives, which is inspired by a true media story, begins with a great deal of opportunity. Based on a real-life tabloid sensation about an unknown choir which gained unlikely fame in 2011, the film centres around the lives of a group of British women on the home front as their husbands are fighting in Afghanistan. Whilst their partners are away serving, the ensemble, led by Kate (Kristin Scott Thomas in a strong performance), decides to form a choir.
It’s a familiar milieu for the musically-inclined filmmaker Peter Cattaneo¸ also behind tune-inspired pics The Full Monty (1997), Lucky Break (2001) and The Rocker (2008). Whilst they’re reluctant at first, driven by the determined and seemingly unflappable Kate and her fiery colleague Lisa (Sharon Horgan), the band comes together to unite as one and make something out of their hobby. Practices are well attended, progress is made quickly, the group is in harmony: success arrives through public performances, friendships are made, media attention follows.
Unfortunately, from there, Military Wives largely becomes a by-the-numbers exercise, which abandons character development. The musical-movie strains viewer credulity by choosing not to delve into the lives of its supporting and lead characters – instead making the film about the pop numbers the group croons and their virtual “instant” fame.
Whilst hits and radio bops comes thick and fast (Yazoo’s Only You, Right Here Waiting), the characters and the story are given little time to develop. This takes away from the film’s impact, as the ensemble’s inner lives, their emotional turmoil, and the impacts of war, are relegated to the side in favour of bits of lengthy, cued and accompanied music video.
The film spends more time on the singers getting The Human League’s Don’t You Want Me down pat, (in one example), than on story development or building the dynamics between its leads – missing an opportunity to offer a relevant picture of people coping with the impacts of conflict and isolation.
Only on occasion are the lives of the group members seen in between uplift and choir time. Moving away from digging into its characters, the film continues to focus on the fame of the group. The result feels superficial and flashy.
Military Wives is a film which disappointingly falls short, providing a poppy playlist and glimpses of entertainment, if little more.