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Review: 'Military Wives' Hits All The Right Notes

If there ever was a movie for these difficult times, this is it.

What we are experiencing day to day is reminiscent of, and arguably worse than, the days of the Great Depression.

Back then, you could leave your home, freely interact with people and not have to wear masks and gloves.

Then, as now, people sought escape by watching movies that might lift their spirits during hard times.

Military Wives is one of those kinds of movies.

About the only thing I didn’t like about it was the title, which might suggest something that you might see on Cinemax late at night.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

It’s a story of women married to British soldiers being deployed to Afghanistan during the conflict.

Living on the military base, they form a sisterhood of emotional support for each other.

Rather than spending their time knitting, they decide to form a singing club, an amateur choir led by two polar opposite women, one, the strict, by-the-books wife of a colonel (played by Kristin Scott Thomas), the other (played by Sharon Horgan) a free-spirited soul who knows that it’s really all about camaraderie versus concert level performance.

As fate would have it, and much to their total shock, they are eventually offered a chance to perform at the legendary Royal Albert Hall for widely-televised “Festival of Remembrance” performance.

It’s an opportunity that is both flattering and terrifying for these amateur singers who never imagined that they would go public on such a massive scale.

They are plagued by self-doubt.

I don’t know what it is about British television production in general and their success with comedy-dramas like this in particular, but they always seem to get it just right.

It’s always the perfect mix of writing, casting, direction, camerawork and editing—virtually every element coming together in harmony.

Military Wives is no exception.

Everything works. You’re reminded of movies like The Full Monty and that’s perhaps because The Full Monty and Military Wives were both directed by Peter Cattaneo.

Add to that the standout performances of Kristin Scott Thomas in one of her best roles and the perfect counter-balancing performance from Sharon Horgan and you already have something worth seeing.

The wonderful ensemble cast is the proverbial icing on the cake.

Let’s be clear, Military Wives is a fictional story inspired by real events.

I always wonder exactly what that means and to what extent a movie script is embellished and exaggerated. In this case, perhaps it doesn’t really matter.

The story works. Plain and simple.

It is beautifully told and, in the end, it is uplifting, joyous and inspirational.

The final credits make a point of showcasing the many spin-off choirs that came into existence as a result of this shared emotional experience.

Military Wives was to have been the opening night movie* at this year’s Cleveland International Film Festival.

Sadly, this year the festival, which I have enthusiastically attended and written about for over two decades, like many film festivals, was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It would have been a wonderful kick-off movie.

While Military Wives contains some expected drama related to the age-old story of soldiers going off to war, it also manages to offer up a nice selection of pop tunes from the past.

Singing is what unites these military wives.

And it consequently unites all of us in a way that only music can bring us together.

We’ve all seen the heartwarming footage of people on their balconies singing together in the streets of Italy and elsewhere.

Singing is something that we do to reestablish our human bond and bolster our courage when things get tough.

It’s that part of this movie that resonates.

As with the characters in the movie, music and singing provide a sense of hope in the face of obstacles and adversity.

One of the final songs in Military Wives is the Sister Sledge hit “We Are Family.”

It’s a great choice to cap things off.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the song was the musical anthem that team captain Willie Stargell selected for the Pittsburgh Pirates when they won the World Series back in 1979.


Military Wives is now available on Hulu, Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video and other major VOD platforms.

*It's also being made available for streaming through the Cleveland Cinemas Virtual Screening Room.

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