• Daniel Rae

Military Wives Review

"Military Wives", Films 42, 2019

This film is uncompromisingly British, with an air-brushed typical-British-Drama sheen that registers as soft and stodgy. Whilst I can appreciate the direction of the treatment towards the delicate feel-good warmth that projects the communal image of these women, everything just feels swallowed up in this bland bubble of pristine-ness that gives the recycled feel of the story no sense of character or charm, despite the talents of Horgan and Scott-Thomas.

The personality of the narrative is not only completely bogged down by the rudimentary, technically-proficient-level-approach to film language, but also by the desperate attempts to gauge the audience with an awkward mix of heart-felt drama and comedy. Not to say that a self-contained, intimately told story warrants a whole lot of stylistic variation, but the lack of detail in colour, sound or camera forces the 'charm' of the characters at the forefront of any emotional development or creativity. However, the lack of individual nuance from the director that is required in order to characterise the community makes these women and the psychological torment of the world around them (shaped by the fear of their loved-ones deaths) fill empty, often leaning back on the crutch of archetypes. Whilst this opens the room to comment on the overarching structure of social class (thanks in-part due to the reeled-back stage-like performance of Scott-Thomas' Kate) , the privilege that comes with it and the camaraderie dynamic parallel to that of the army, this is presented in an all-too 'quirky' fashion in order for any emotional weight of their journey to resonate. Highlighting the derivative approach towards Cattaneo's usual charismatic wit when it comes to writing, the attempts of the contrived conflicts to display the awkwardness that comes with the development of community and friendship come across as stilted and needlessly forced in order to justify the quest-like nature of the pacing that closes the door for any individual voice and/or ideology to truly register or satisfyingly develop. It's forced sense of fluidity to its pacing can also be seen with the attempts to make the balance in focus between the wives and their husbands feel appropriate. This not only underlines the cheap feeling of sanitisation that tinges the natural approach to style, but also disrupts the line of identification beyond character exposition. Whilst the light-hearted tonal consistency doesn't aim to offend or do any injustice to the emotional fragility of the real women involved, the lack of any true tangible humanity as a result of the plotpoints becoming lost in the universal collectiveness and disabling the room for any dynamic, potent individual character arc beyond what is expected from its genre extinguishes any 'charm' to latch onto.

Overall, despite the opportunity of its subject matter to explore the emotional vulnerability of femininity that could come from the absence of masculinity that traditionally holds together social structure, or the domestic turmoil that comes with the socio-political focus on national identity, "Military Wives" is a forgettable attempt in utilising its comforting crowd-pleaser aura to comment on the devastation of war, with its genre-coded narrative tangents and the lack of anything distinct in the vein of its shallow treatment.

1.5/5 Stars

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