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"MILITARY WIVES"
(2020) (Kristin Scott Thomas, Sharon Horgan) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Dramedy: Two wives of British officers serving in the war in Afghanistan vie for control of the women's choir they've created.
PLOT:

With the British involvement in the war in Afghanistan, it's time for the soldiers of Flitcroft military base to head off for a six-month tour, leaving their spouses behind. With her husband's recent promotion, Lisa (SHARON HORGAN) is now in charge of social activities for the wives at the base, all while trying to keep her 15-year-old daughter, Frankie (INDIA AMARTEIFIO), in line. But Kate (KRISTIN SCOTT THOMAS), the wife of Richard (GREG WISE), the commanding officer, believes she needs to fill that need of coordinating social events.

When a knitting club goes nowhere, Kate takes the suggestion from young bride Sarah (AMY JAMES-KELLY) that they start a choir to keep themselves busy. While various women such as Annie (EMMA LOWNDES) and Maz (LAURA CHECKLEY) reluctantly agree to participate, tone-deaf hairdresser Ruby (LARA ROSSI) has no such reservations. But the real singer among the bunch is shy Jess (GABY FRENCH), and Kate and Lisa differ in their approach at making her and the rest into a true choir, with Kate preferring a rigid, classical approach, while Lisa is looser and has the ladies singing pop tunes.

With the women always concerned about their loved ones off in harm's way, they practice to become the best that they can, with a surprise performance awaiting them just around the corner.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10

I will freely admit that I worry about my wife when she's away on business trips. Not necessarily in the U.S., but definitely more so when she's overseas. It's not that I think all foreign countries are more dangerous than here -- in fact, most are a lot safer -- it's just that when she's an eight or fourteen-hour plane ride away, there's not much I can do, at least immediately, to help her if something goes wrong. Of course, the odds of that happening are not great -- she's not traveling to Somalia or other hot spot nations -- but the concern is always there, even if it's just at the back of my mind most of the time.

That said, I can't imagine how family members feel when one of their loved ones is serving in the military in a combat zone. For anyone who's the spouse of a cop whose beat includes bad neighborhoods is bad enough, but being related to or in a relationship with a soldier in locales where they are considered the enemy would be nerve-racking to say the least.

Granted there are support networks for those back home or on military bases and some of those include group activities to keep minds occupied and removed, at least temporarily, from the worry zone. That's the gist of "Military Wives," a dramedy that's much better than its rather bland title.

To be fair, that originates from the real-life Military Wives Choir charity that started in 2009 by two Scots Guards wives who came up with the idea while their husbands were deployed in Afghanistan. That small endeavor has since grown to a network of 75 choirs on British military bases around the world with more than 2,000 active members.

This offering -- directed by Peter Cattaneo from a script by Rosanne Flynn and Rachel Tunnard -- is the origins tale of that genesis, albeit one apparently with a great deal of artistic liberties. Not that anyone not familiar with the true-life effort would recognize that, and even if they do they might still enjoy this delightful if formulaic offering as much as I did, even with my complete lack of knowing any of that existed.

Cattaneo, who hit it big critically and commercially back in 1997 with "The Full Monty" but failed to match that with subsequent efforts, might have another hit on his hands although the lack of a proper theatrical release during the current pandemic shutown will certainly stymie "box office" results. But this one's a crowd-pleaser through and through, with enough moments of gravitas and tugging on the heartstrings to make it a well-rounded bit of entertainment.

In it, Kristin Scott Thomas and Sharon Horgan star as wives of British officers who've just set out on a six-month deployment to Afghanistan. Horgan's Lisa is the new social director of the wives on the military base, but Thomas' take-charge Kate thinks that's lacking and decides to assume the lead. For the majority of the women, Lisa is the carefree one who just wants the women to have some diverting fun, while Kate comes across as the by-the-books schoolmarm who believes the only way is her and that's the traditional one.

And thus the two clash over how to direct the newly formed choir, with Kate trying formal (and boring) vocal training, while Lisa just wants the ladies to cut loose covering some pop tunes of the times. While that leads to comedy aplenty, there's some deeper material present as well. That includes Amy James-Kelly as a new bride who's yet to figure out to cope with her ever-present nervousness about her young husband, while Lisa is dealing with a moody teenage daughter (India Amarteifio) and Kate is still reeling from the military service death of her son and the seemingly umpteenth deployment of her colonel husband (Greg Wise).

There's little here that will surprise anyone who's ever seen a movie before, but all involved put enough heart and soul into the pic that it works from start to finish, even if you pretty much already know how things will ultimately play out. Despite that -- and the mundane (if appropriate) title -- I enjoyed every moment of this offering. You might too, and if anything, it should take your mind off whatever worries you might be having, at least for a couple of hours. "Military Wives" rates as a 6.5 out of 10.




Reviewed May 19, 2020 / Posted May 22, 2020


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