Review by Sean Boelman
The newest film from British director Peter Cattaneo (The Full Monty), Military Wives is a new semi-musical melodrama. And while it may not subvert any expectations, it’s a sweet and uplifting movie that is unlikely to leave any but the coldest hearts unmoved, and may even leave some viewers without a dry eye.
Inspired by the phenomenon of military wives’ choirs that sprung up on military bases across the world, the film follows a group of women who get together to form a singing group in an attempt to take their minds off of the danger their husbands are facing. It’s an interesting story with implications larger than what it lets on, even if they aren’t fully explored.
One of the most frustrating things in the movie is that it doesn’t address the giant elephant in the room: the war. Although a few clever lines speak to the issue (one of the wives talks about not having married into the war), this topic is largely left alone. While the film works fine as a cutesy tale of the homefront, one can’t help but feel like it could have been more.
The two lead characters are both very compelling, but unfortunately, there is a lack of interesting supporting players. Only one of the other wives is given a compelling arc, and much of the emotion that viewers will feel towards her arc is earned through tear-jerking. It would have been nice had the script by Rosanne Flynn and Rachel Tunnard spent more time developing the dynamic between the wives.
The actors all do a very solid job in their roles. Kirstin Scott Thomas and Sharon Horgan play the two leads, and they have an interesting dichotomy between them. Thomas works well as the emotional center of the movie with Horgan as the more lighthearted relief, allowing the film as a whole to have a rather nice feel to it.
At a bit under two hours in length, the film does run a bit long, but that is because it takes a while for them to get to the point of actually forming the wives’ choir. Once the choir is formed, it becomes an entertaining, if predictable underdog story that breezes by relatively quickly. There’s just some excessive exposition tacked onto the beginning.
The performances themselves are certainly uneven, and even though this fits the story of the movie, it can be very frustrating. For a majority of the first half of the film, the songs are mediocre covers sung poorly, but once the group finds their groove, it becomes legitimately pleasant. The original song, “Home Thoughts From Abroad”, may even be deserving of awards recognition when all is said and done.
Military Wives may not be a great movie, but it’s entertaining and heartwarming enough to be worth a watch. Some may think it’s sentimental drabble, yet there is an undeniable and infectious charm about it that will earn it a lot of love.
Military Wives hits Hulu, VOD, and virtual cinemas on May 22.