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Military Wives: Lacks drama or any real depth but it is nonetheless very watchable

Cert: 12A; Now showing

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Sharon Horgan, Kristin Scott Thomas and choir go full jolly hockey sticks in Military Wives

Sharon Horgan, Kristin Scott Thomas and choir go full jolly hockey sticks in Military Wives

Onward

Onward

Issa Rae and LaKeith Stanfield

Issa Rae and LaKeith Stanfield

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Sharon Horgan, Kristin Scott Thomas and choir go full jolly hockey sticks in Military Wives

Scary heads up, it's been 23 years since The Full Monty, that British unemployed-men-become-strippers film that captured so many hearts.

Its director, Peter Cattaneo, hasn't really hit the same heights since (he was Oscar nominated for The Full Monty) but he has stuck to the genre and here in Military Wives he tells another very English, bonding with a rousing finale story. Unfortunately this time it is to less effect, the film lacks drama or any real depth but it is nonetheless very watchable in a nice, pleasant, unthreatening way.

When their partners head off for a six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan the women left at home on the military base come together to find ways to pass the time. Unwilling but popular organiser Lisa (Sharon Horgan) doesn't really have a formal plan for activities, something which irks willing but unpopular would-be organiser Kate (Kristin Scott-Thomas). Their husbands are different ranks and that inevitably causes an issue, but so too do their attitudes to life. When someone suggests they set up a choir, the two women's very different styles become apparent.

The story, written by Rachel Tunnard and Rosanne Flynn, is based on the true story of military wives who enlisted a TV choirmaster, an endeavour so successful it spawned a TV series.

The women give good performances in a mediocre film, but there just isn't any real tension or drama - you can see the ending coming from the beginning, so it is difficult to get invested.

The dramatic elements - like the stress inherent in someone you love being away and in danger for six months, dealing with that and managing kids through it - are glossed over when they could have given the film a bit more emotional depth. The movie is content just to celebrate the women and their singing, to gloss over the deep stuff and focus on forbearance and stiff upper lips in a light-hearted way.

There's nothing wrong with that, though the sole emotion the film exhibits feels very manipulative - and in fact it it feels like a very 'brexit' film... so perhaps lacks the elements that might really hook an Irish audience.

★★★ Aine O'Connor


Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am

Club Cert: Now showing

Toni Morrison, who died last August, was a wise, fascinating and brilliant woman. A Nobel Prize winner for literature, her work was initially hailed as a unique voice for Black Americans, especially women. But I remember reading her novels as a teenager in 1980s Dublin and being absolutely mesmerised. They were just fabulous books.

Timothy Greenfield-Sanders's documentary was made with Morrison and in it she speaks to the camera discussing the major events in her life, her method, her thoughts. She is a most engaging speaker, full of warmth and humour and, like the best documentaries, it gives you a real feeling for the subject.

It also gives a great sense of history, not least how although so many of her novels were critically acclaimed right from the beginning, many a critic hoped she would evolve as a writer and cover more important, by which they meant "white", topics and worlds. The thought never even entered her head.

The documentary has input from people who knew, worked with and admired Morrison. The film is a bit too long but if you have read the books it will make you want to reread them, and if you haven't you will want to.

★★★★ Aine O'Connor


Onward

Cert: PG; Now showing

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Onward

Onward

Onward

Elf brothers Ian (voiced by Tom Holland) and Barley Lightfoot (Chris Pratt) are living in a world where dungeons, dragons and general magic have been replaced by the mundanity of modern convenience.

On the day of the former's 16th birthday, the brothers are given a mystical staff by their mum (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) that was bequeathed to them by their late father. If they can find a rare stone, they can use it to bring him back for a day. Gung-ho fantasy nerd Barley is itching for an adventure but for Ian, the quest is a chance to meet the dad he never knew.

Has a lump formed in your throat yet? Well, it will by the end of this Disney Pixar concoction directed and co-written by Dan Scanlon. While not strikingly original, the plot has huge fun with fantasy tropes, teenage kicks, and the incongruities and harmonies between. But as with all of the mighty animation studio's fare, it is the poignancy underpinning it all that gets you.

★★★★ Hilary White


The True History of the Kelly Gang

Cert: 18; Now showing

For his fourth feature Justin Kurzel directs Shaun Grant's screenplay of Peter Carey's Man Booker Prize winning novel. It's an interesting, largely successful and perhaps unexpectedly interioristic look at the iconic Australian outlaw/folk hero Ned Kelly.

A strong cast populate a grubby, atmospheric, hard, almost steam punk Australian western that, although it flags at points, never gets boring.

Young Ned Kelly (Orlando Schwerdt) leads a hard, impoverished life in the Australian outback where his mother Ellen (Essie Davis) rules the roost. A tough woman who knows how to survive, she courts the local constable (Charlie Hunnam) and outlaw Harry Power (Russell Crowe) to whom she essentially sells young Ned.

By the time he grows up (into George Mackay) Ned is a damaged and lost soul. He leads a gang of criminals, falls in love with a prostitute, Mary (Thomasin McKenzie) and has a complex relationship with Constable Fitzpatrick (Nicholas Hoult via Hugh Grant). As a lead Mackay is almost ephemeral but in a film that is about the man not the icon and what made him, that works for there is a sense Kelly would have been at war with anyone. An interesting watch. ★★★★ Aine O'Connor


The Photograph

Cert: 12A; Now showing

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Issa Rae and LaKeith Stanfield

Issa Rae and LaKeith Stanfield

Issa Rae and LaKeith Stanfield

Stella Meghie's film, which she both writes and directs, is a beautiful-looking, stylish, African-American romance. It's nice but unmemorable, a little style over substance it lacks real feeling or urgency and does not quite deliver on the promise of its premise.

When famous photographer Christina Eames dies she leaves a letter for her estranged daughter Mae (Issa Rae) and a photo which prompts journalist Michael (LaKeith Stanfield) to investigate for a story. Mae and Michael (below) coincide on different research journeys and discover that they have more in common than they initially think. The film alternates between the modern day New York-based love story of Mae and Michael and the 1984 Louisana love story of Christina (Chanté Adams) and Isaac (Y'lan Noel). There are parallels and the question is if the new generation will repeat the mistakes of the old. It's not bad but unfortunately neither is it very involving. ★★★ Aine O'Connor

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