First things first, how can you not love a movie that reminds you just what great songs the Human League’s Don’t You Want Me and Only You by Yazoo, really are, no matter who sings them (out of tune). You’ll get what we mean when you see the film.
When you go into MILITARY WIVES it’s fair to say you pretty much know what you’re going to get. We don’t mean that in a negative way either, in fact just the opposite. When you realise this film was directed by Peter Cattaneo, who also directed The Full Monty, it’s safe to assume you’ll laugh, cry and be in for a few surprises. Military Wives delivers on all counts, and more.
It’s been over twenty years since ‘Monty’ and there’s no doubt this is a welcome, and long awaited return for its director. There are many similarities between the two movies as well. They are both inspired by true events. They each have an unlikely band of ‘everyday’ characters coming together, with one common goal. And the issue of self-esteem is dealt with in both films.
Like the real story, the movie focuses on a group of women who form a close bond, and eventually set up a choir to help them cope with being separated from their loved ones, who are serving in the armed forces.
What the film captures so emotionally, is the pain felt when the respective partners head off for another tour of duty, which of course means they’ll be away from home and family for long periods at at time. Those of us who haven’t experienced this type of emotional, family disruption, can barely imagine what the feeling is like. In our mind we would think these soon to be separated couples would be all romantic and passionate on their last evening together. MILITARY WIVES however, portrays this moment very differently, and we presume accurately.
So, left alone, these short-term single parents and wives find things to do to fill their long days on camp. Something to distract them from the constant fear of a phone call or visit, bringing with it the worst possible news. They try it all, even a bit of knitting, helped along by copious amounts of alcohol. It’s at this point in the movie when the ladies stumble on the idea of a choir, and so the Military Wives are born.
Recently put in charge of organising new activities for the women, the irreverent Lisa (Sharon Horgan) wants a nice easy time from her role. Enter the great ambitions of Kate (Kristin Scott Thomas). Organised and proper, she can’t image any fun in getting drunk and wasting time with your mates. So begins the testy relationship between the pair of them. The other Wives who are caught in the crossfire and the music the choir eventually go on to make.
I realise that you probably know the story of the Wives but the movie is one you should go into without knowing too much about it, the story is a little different. The inevitable does happen but there are also some surprises along the way too. And as for the finale, we think they got it just right. From a brilliant catfight, which will make you gasp, to the emotional song, which really does tear at the heartstrings.
That song, and it’s pretty damn fantastic, was written by Robbie Williams and long time writing partner Guy Chambers (he wrote Angels with Robbie). Telling us about that song, Robbie and Guy said…..
“It’s always a joy to work together on new music, and we’re thrilled that our new song will be featured in this special film. We’re really proud of the track and can’t wait for you all to hear it.”
The production team told us…..
“Over the last few months, Kristin, Sharon and our hugely talented ensemble cast have put their hearts and voices into telling this tale, which demonstrates how a community of strong women can come together and literally change lives.”
“Having Robbie and Guy collaborate with us on the original music, which is so essential to the journey of these characters, is truly exciting.”
The real MILITARY WIVES held their first rehearsal 10 years ago now in Catterick Garrison. It was the idea of two Scots Guards wives who decided, whilst their husbands were deployed in Afghanistan in 2009, to put up posters at the Garrison to actively encourage and look for ladies interested in singing together, to help support and give the wives a focus whilst their husbands deployed. They engaged a well-known local music teacher and set about putting together a choir made up of Wives, Girlfriends and Service women and so the first choir was formed.
They wrote to choirmaster Gareth Malone looking for help and support with the choir; at that time he was a regular on the BBC programme The Choir and the ladies felt he could guide them through. What a letter that turned out to be. Gareth then went to RMB Chivenor to start another choir there.
Other choirs were set up at Royal Citadel, Plymouth and they released the single, ‘Wherever You Are’, which hit the top spot in the UK Singles Chart, becoming a Christmas number one.
CTCRM, Lympstone and HMNB Portsmouth choirs were formed and contributed to the album, ‘In My Dreams’, which came out in 2012 which also reached number one in the UK Album Chart. They released a second album, ‘Stronger Together’, later in the year, which made top five.
Interestingly, research shows that singing in a choir helps to alleviate stress and contributes to an improvement in isolation, anxiety and depression. The Military Wives Choirs therefore have a vital role to play by bringing women in the military community together to sing, share and support one another.
This has gone on to be a massive thing now, as you’ll see at the very end of the movie. There are over 2,000 women with a military connection in 74 choirs based across the UK and in British military bases abroad, including Cyprus, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.
They are now a fully registered charity. The Military Wives Choirs Foundation, which encapsulates all of the choirs, is run by a small central support team and the Board of Trustees. It’s an independent charity and subsidiary of SSAFA.
The choirs have headlined their own shows and tours across the UK and performed at the opening of the Olympic Stadium. They’re paying live at the moment, which coincides very nicely with the release of the movie.
Take a look at this video of the ladies talking about Armistice Day, explaining how music played an important role during World War 1, both in the trenches and back at home. It was extremely important for the troops, who would sing for solidarity and to boost morale. The Military Wives Choirs continue that tradition and theme today.
To find out more about the choir and what they are doing now, go here. MILITARY WIVES
Kristin Scott Thomas and Sharon Horgan star in film, but it really is a team effort. Downton Abbey‘s Emma Lowndes, Greg Wise, Jason Flemyng, Gaby French, Lara Rossi, Amy James-Kelly and India Ria Amarteifio, among others, are also in it.
MILITARY WIVES had the audience at our preview screening laughing (a lot) and crying at appropriate points too. It’s released here on the 6th March but they have to wait till the 27th to see it in the States.
The Festival of Remembrance performance below with the real choir, will make sense once you’ve see the film.