There is a very popular Brazilian saying that states ‘singing chases away the blues’. When times are hard, chanting a familiar tune helps to cope with the overwhelming certainty that life is not at all fair. It is far from being a cure, or even a medicine per se, but singing can be a potent anaesthetic. To confirm this hypothesis, one just needs to watch Military Wives, a feel-good tale on the soul-crushing reality of families who need to maintain a sense of routine whilst their loved ones risk their lives at war.
After watching their partners embark to fight in Afghanistan, a group of wives in one remote English military village find themselves trying to agree on a fitting pastime to bond over while waiting for the return of their loved ones. Whilst Kate (Kristin Scott Thomas) tends towards traditional, overtly organised activities such as knitting or a book club, Lisa (Sharon Horgan) just wants to informally chat over a few drinks. The drastic difference between the two leading figures is put to the test once the group agrees to start a choir.
Director Peter Cattaneo tries his best to stretch this factual fable into a full feature, but there are times when the mission is one too dreary. There is a lingering sense of detachment that permeates the narrative until its home run, a tear-inducing fest of unity overcoming loss that proves to be effective despite its inevitably clichéd tone. As the choir finally comes together, Military Wives fishes the attention of an audience that was not yet fully engulfed by the story. It does so almost a little too late.
The film finds its royal flush in the form of the delightful cast, led by veterans Scott Thomas and Horgan. Equally competent in moments of vulnerability as they are in joyful camaraderie, the group is undeniably fun to watch. United by a common fear, the bond between these women easily surpasses any difficulties the array of staggeringly contrasting personalities might stir. The playfulness that constantly flows through their interactions successfully manages to mask the harrowing truth of what unites them all.
Despite its many stumbles, it is hard to fight against the human urge of ignoring technical flaws in place of rooting for friendship to overcome woe. Whilst the women cheerfully chant to classic pop songs to numb their minds from grim concerns, the viewer is inevitably led to ponder over their own sorrows and treasure the little things. In times of trouble and uncertainty, films like Military Wives can provide a brief yet precious dose of feel-goodness. In these particularly difficult moments, it is beyond welcome.