Military Wives is a fairly straightforward feel-good film that offers up a bittersweet salute to military families and their sacrifice, just in time for the long Memorial Day weekend. It’s a dramedy that takes place primarily on a British Army base and focuses on a diverse group of women whose partners are deployed to war-torn Afghanistan for six months. To help pass the time, and keep themselves distracted from the daily stresses of juggling family and fear, the women form a singing group that leapfrogs from a small practice room on base to the glaring spotlight of a globally-televised event at London’s iconic Royal Albert Hall. The film is inspired by true events surrounding the formation of the very first Military Wives choir that started a decade ago and led to a popular BBC docuseries and dozens of other Military Wives choirs around the world. The characters and much of the story is fictionalized – which likely accounts for the formulaic rhythm of conflict, humor, tragedy and triumph – but the spirit of the film is authentic, and a lot of real military families were used as extras in an emotional send-off scene that sets the stage for the drama to unfold.
The heart of the film is the evolution of the relationship between two of the wives: Kate (Kristin Scott Thomas), the base commander’s sophisticated, uptight wife who is quietly grieving the loss of her son, and Lisa (Sharon Horgan), the laid-back chair of the Social Committee tasked with organizing activities on the homefront. The women clash over how best to direct the assorted personalities and vocal skills of their newly-formed amateur singing group, but as you might expect, the rivals gradually become friends as each brings something of value to the effort.
Military Wives is directed by Peter Cattaneo who helmed the 1997 sleeper hit The Full Monty. Both films share a similar vibe, though Military Wives isn’t nearly as strong as Monty overall. It’s more like an indie version of Sister Act – on a military base rather than a convent.
The soundtrack features a mix of fun 1980s pop-rock from The Human League (“Don’t You Want Me”), Tears for Fears (“Shout”), Yazoo (“Only You”) and Cyndi Lauper (“Time After Time”) and some original music, including a final song designed to trigger the waterworks. Mission accomplished there.
Military Wives is available to rent or buy on Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video and other major VOD platforms, and free to stream for Hulu subscribers starting Friday, May 22.