‘Military Wives’ is a feel-good dramedy about music and friendship

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In the time of coronavirus and social distancing, we could all use a little pick-me-up. Military Wives, directed by The Full Monty’s Peter Cattaneo, is a film that’ll do just that. Charming and emotional, it’s a movie that just hits the spot. All you need to do is let it wrap you up in its warmth and enjoy the renditions of songs like “Don’t You Want Me, Baby?” and “We Are Family”.

With their husbands away serving in Afghanistan, each day is a struggle for the wives who are left on their own at a military base in England. Uptight social committee chair Kate (Kristin Scott Thomas) tries to organize activities to keep the women’s minds off things, but overcoming the daily worries and loneliness is no easy feat. When they decide to start the first military wives choir, the women find a shared passion as they prepare to take the stage at Royal Albert Hall.

Kirstin Scott Thomas’ Kate is a straight-laced Type A who believes in discipline and hard work. So when Kate and the more laidback Lisa (Sharon Horgan) are tasked with making the choir a reality, they butt heads with two conflicting visions. Kate sees this as an opportunity to challenge the women, employing sheet music with a fierce focus on staying in key. Lisa, however, wants the choir to be more of a “singing club” – think sober karaoke, where the women pick their favorite pop songs and belt them out with abandon.

It’s hardly new territory, but there’s something about these characters that automatically draws us to them. Through the inevitable death of a loved one, family issues, and the woes of performing in public, we relate to their struggles. As the two leads, Scott Thomas and Horgan are the backbone of this film. While it’s fun to watch the push and pull between the two women, we never forget one thing: there’s a potent pain behind these tough facades.

As the wife of the commanding officer – and thus the highest-ranking wife at the base – Kate often comes off as stiff and above it all. But Kate isn’t just a military wife, but a military mom whose son was a recent war casualty. Watching her try to assimilate with the group and shed her frigid armor is a poignant dose of reality in an otherwise upbeat picture. Music is a joyous band-aid for bereavement, but friendship and community are what ultimately heal us.

Military Wives very much evokes the spirit of the 2003 British hit film Calendar Girls. Based on real events, this is a crowd-pleaser through and through. But despite its boundless positivity, it remains sincere and heartfelt. Part feel-good comedy and part moving drama, Military Wives is an irresistible story about women coming together in the hardest of times.

Military Wives was originally scheduled to have its Florida Premiere at the 2020 Miami Film Festival on March 12, a screening that was cancelled with the premature end of the Festival due to the pandemic. It’s now available for rent in support of Miami Film Festival – for tickets, click here.

Lauren Cohen

Lauren Cohen is the Miami Film Festival's associate director of programming. She also runs the Festival’s membership level for young professionals, CineClub. Learn more about Lauren on Programmers.