TIFF 2019: Military Wives (Peter Cattaneo, 2019, UK)

     Military Wives is a formulaic feel good dramedy from Peter Cattaneo, the director of The Full Monty. If you’ve seen The Full Monty, then you know what you’re getting into. A ragtag group rallying together for a good cause.  Admittedly I’m not the core audience for this film, so I tried to judge it objectively. Even so, the film is so unexceptional that it is hard to muster enough to write about in a review. If a film delivers on a well-tested formula, is it a success? Military Wives is bound to lead some audience members to cheers and laughs, and others to rolling their eyes.
     While Kristin Scott Thomas and Sharon Hogan have a good level of onscreen tension throughout the film, the rest of the players in the choir feel two-dimensional and poorly drawn. One of them has a poor singing voice but finds her place within the choir later on. Another shy member of the choir we learn has an amazing voice, to great surprise. Each player in the ensemble is a type rather than a three-dimensional character.
     While the film does touch on real issues – the loss of loved ones in combat – it does so in a way that rather glosses over the emotional impact. When one of the choir members loses her husband, the grieving period is short and breezed over within the script. We see her continue with the choir, rather than dealing with the fallout over the loss in a realistic way.
     The film is most enjoyable during the performances of the choir. In particular, the performance of the song “Only You” by Yazoo is fun. Watching the members of the chorus grapple with and ultimately coalesce in a strong performance is a nice, if rather unbelievable moment, in Military Wives.
     The film moves along at a decent pace, although the tensions between Thomas’s and Horgan’s characters grow tiresome after awhile. There is only so much tension that can be mined from the choir dynamics. While Cattaneo does a bit to add to the tension by making us aware that the women’s husbands lives are at risk, too many scenes throughout the film feel like déjà vu. 



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