“Military Wives” Movie Review: A Very British Film

Updated on June 25, 2020
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

Scientist and author, Beth enjoys living life in the slow lane. She takes time to enjoy the little things in life.

Premiered in March 2020, this feel-good movie has received 5-star reviews.
Premiered in March 2020, this feel-good movie has received 5-star reviews. | Source

Starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Sharon Horgan

The story is about a group of women waiting to hear whether their husband, son or partner has been killed or injured in a distant war. Every day, around the world, thousands of military wives put on a brave face and carry on as normal despite personal tragedy.

Military Wives is set in the early 2000s when British and American troops were fighting in Afghanistan against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Casualties were high. Wives and partners of the soldiers living on army bases in the UK were trying to keep life as normal as possible for their children, despite the worry and isolation they felt.

The media normally focuses on the men that go off to war,and ignores the supporting cast. This movie takes a look at that other part of the military effort; the women and families that are left behind on the base to wait.

Based on a true story, the film focuses on the friendship and courage needed to withstand the horrors of war when you are "left behind at home."

The movie has an impressive cast; Kristin Scott Thomas, Sharon Horgan, Greg Wise, Jason Flemyng, as well as Emma Lowndes, Gaby French, Lara Rossi, Amy James-Kelly and India Ria Amarteifio.

Military Wives Official Film Trailer

“Military Wives” Directed by Peter Cattaneo

I saw this movie in March 2020, just before the coronavirus pandemic lockdown restrictions began. Seeing it on a large cinema screen, as opposed to home TV, made the action very powerful and all-encompassing. I loved the comic interaction between the characters; they are well cast, and the script is cleverly written, but it is not a classic comedy.

There were sad and poignant moments when I literally had tears running down my face. And I was not alone, there was a mass outpouring of emotion from the whole audience. You may not be so powerfully affected if you watch this film on the small screen, but be prepared for an emotional roller-caster ride none-the-less.

Peter Cattaneo, the movie’s director, is uncomfortable with the film being categorized as a comedy. He says “It’s a character drama, an honest story about people. People like to make each other laugh, and sometimes the tougher their lives get, the more they need to make each other laugh just to survive.”

Soldiers engage with the local population, whilst missing their own families.
Soldiers engage with the local population, whilst missing their own families. | Source

Inspired by True Life Events

The plot is simple; a group of women get together to form a choir. They bond, become firm friends, and their choral efforts are recognized by the “higher ups” in the army. But it’s so much more than that, there is no happy-ever-after to this tale. The story is based on real life events. A group of soldiers’ wives formed a choir on base to support each other through the worry that accompanied the troops leaving to fight in the second Afghanistan conflict. Belonging to the choir helped these women get through some very difficult times.

The movie follows the ups and downs of their lives, the pain and grief of death and disability, as well as the highs of mutual support, and true friendship. There’s lots of comedy as well as sadness in the film. The well-written script includes funny dialogue, funny situations, but not comic gags; it’s not that sort of film. It’s not trying to be a comedy; it’s a war film about humanity and it’s written with honesty and observation, and that includes conflict. It is a bitter-sweet movie that moved me to tears and laughter.

Military Wives Stars Discuss Women's Role in Movie

A Very British Film

Peter Cattaneo the director of another acclaimed British movie about ordinary people, The Full Monty, and he is well-known for bringing out the humor and drama of everyday situations. In Military Wives, Cattaneo has cast a range of characters to represent every class, race, and sexual orientation found in British society. This leads to comic and poignant misunderstandings as people from different backgrounds are thrown together in stressful situations.

Some of the class-based nuances may escape the notice of American audiences, but that shouldn’t spoil your enjoyment of this movie. Suffice to say, it’s no accident that the Colonel’s wife (Kristin Scott Thomas) and the RSM’s wife (Sharon Horgan) are at loggerheads for much of the film. But by the end of the story, the two have reached a compromise and find that, without realizing it, they have become good friends.

I whole-heartedly recommend you see this movie; an emotional, feel-good, rollercoaster, it will make you appreciate your friends and family so much more than before.

The Original Military Wives Sing "Wherever You Are" Conducted by Gareth Malone

What Happened to the Real-Life Military Wives?

The film Military Wives is based on the women tutored by choir-master Gareth Malone in a reality BBC TV series. The legacy of that show was the founding of the charity “Military Wives Choirs.” This non-profit now supports over 2,500 women on military bases in more than 76 choirs across the UK and overseas.

The Daily Mail newspaper interviewed some of the original choir members in 2015 about their life-changing TV singing experience. Here are a few of their memories.

“Whenever your loved one is deployed, you wonder whether you’ll ever see them again. In 2010, George’s regiment had just been sent to Afghanistan and it was a tough tour with several fatalities and serious injuries. When I heard a choir was being set up, I leapt at the chance to join. The TV cameras filmed us when we were scared, anxious and vulnerable but the crews were so sensitive. It was not always the women crying but the camera crews as well.” Nicky

“When friends told me about the choir, I said: ‘No, it’s not my cup of tea.’ I’d never heard of Gareth Malone and I didn’t sing but they persuaded me to go and I’m so glad I did. It changed my life. Within three weeks, we were all going through a pretty scary time. Our loved ones were on tour in Afghanistan and were being hit quite badly. Friends lost husbands and we were all nervous about the knock on the door.” Mechelle

“There are several moments in the film which came from our experiences — having children running around our feet in rehearsal, the scene where the ladies try their hand at knitting, and the fact that the choir wears jeans and white shirts for one of the concerts. That’s what we wore for our first public appearance. I’m proud of what we’ve achieved in the past decade. Even today, when I sing the words to Wherever You Are (the song lyrics were made up from letters to and from those serving abroad) I’m singing them to Nick.” Beth

Further Information

Military Wives was premiered in UK, March 2020

Released in US, April 2020

UK troops in Afghanistan: Timeline of key events

About Gareth Malone and the BBC reality show, The Choir, aired in 2006


Submit a Comment
  • Eurofile profile image

    Liz Westwood 

    3 months ago from UK

    This had good reviews in the UK. The real life story had a big following over here. It's a shame that release came shortly before lockdown.


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