Based on true events, Military Wives tells the story of how the very first military wives charity group came to be formed. That initial group was soon followed by more Military Wives groups, with some of the earlier ones even starring in 2011 BBC reality show ‘The Choir’, led by Gareth Malone. The Military Wives choirs have continued to grow since then and now comprise of 2000 women, located at over 70 military bases around the world, producing hit singles and albums as they go from strength to strength. The movie is directed by Peter Cattaneo, who directed The Full Monty, and the trailer really does have that traditional feel-good British comedy vibe which we seem to churn out year after year in an attempt to be “this years Full Monty”. I wasn’t sure if this was going to be for me, but after I found myself thoroughly enjoying Fisherman’s Friends last year, I went in with an open mind.
At a UK army base, soldiers are preparing to leave for another tour in Afghanistan. As they say goodbye, we’re given a chance to be introduced to the wives and families who will remain in the houses located on the base while the soldiers are away. Straight away, we get real insight into the lives of these women – trying to maintain some kind of normality, while constantly living in fear of the phone call or the knock at the door that might come at any time and turn their lives upside down. The women all vary in their experience of army life – from young, newly married wives to wives who are old hands at moving from base to base and country to country, coping without their husband for long periods of time.
Kate (Kristin Scott Thomas) is married to the regiment’s colonel and assumes that she is therefore superior to all the other women on the base – jumping the queue in the small on-site grocery store and generally looking down her nose at the others. Lisa (Sharon Horgan) is much more laid back than Kate, happy to just go with the flow. She has been charged with pastoral care for the wives while their partners are away, and is more than happy just to organise the odd coffee morning or a few glasses of wine rather than anything more productive and engaging for the group. With her husband away, and having to deal with a past tragedy that we learn more about as the story unfolds, Kate decides to try and poke her nose in and organise Lisa and the other wives. Consequently, Kate and Lisa clash… regularly.
After unsuccessfully trying out knitting as a suggested activity, one of the wives suggests singing. Unfortunately though, none of the women appear to be very good at singing and the bickering between Kate and Lisa doesn’t really help improve them either. While Kate reads up on vocal warm-ups and learning how to conduct a choir, Lisa digs out her old electronic keyboard and is happy just to have the group try and sing along to a few old pop songs.
Military Wives does manage to follow that traditional Full Monty template I described earlier – with a mismatched bunch of inexperienced singers who eventually manage to get it together enough to be able to perform their own song at the Royal Albert Hall. However, I did feel that the emotion and the drama surrounding these women, who could lose their husband/wife at any moment, really brought something different to the movie, something which I don’t feel the trailer accurately portrays. The comedy and the feel-good factor that these trailers like to put across was a lot more subtle, and as a result I enjoyed it far more than I was expecting to.