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United Kingdom 2003
Directed by
Nigel Cole
110 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
3.5 stars

Calendar Girls

Synopsis: In the Yorkshire village of Knapely two close friends Chris (Helen Mirren) and Annie (Julie Walters) sit through the weekly boredom of the local Women's Institute talks on socks, broccoli and knitting. When Annie's husband John (John Alderton) dies of leukaemia, Chris decides to have a fund-raiser for the local hospital that has nursed him. Her inspiration is to publish a calendar with the WI women engaged in traditional activities but with a twist: they're all in the nude! What follows is more publicity than the women ever dreamed of, not to mention deeper challenges to friendship and family commitment.

Calendar Girls is inspired by a true story, although many of the characters and plot devices have been fictionalised to add dramatic conflict. This deceptively simple tale is both enchanting and inspiring, with more depth than its surface plot would imply. Director Nigel Cole has a good eye for capturing English eccentricities in an amusing but affectionate manner. Who but a crusty English husband would say over breakfast "You're nude in the Telegraph dear. Pass the bacon"?

Although there is plenty to laugh at, the film is also surprisingly touching and at times thought-provoking. Rather than merely examining the hype and titillation surrounding these supposedly conservative middle class women posing nude, the film goes on to examine the implications of sudden fame for the participants and the lives of their families. There is wonderful incongruity when the women meet the Hollywood media circus, and dramatic underlying tensions when the two friends start to examine their own motivations. What really stands out however is the much-needed acknowledgment of the beauty of older women. There is a wonderful line comparing the women of Yorkshire to flowers in which the last stage is the most glorious, something seldom considered in today's worship of eternal youth and cosmetic surgery!

The actresses chosen to portray these glorious flowers are indeed testament that women can age gracefully and are still beautiful. Helen Mirren puts in a sterling performance as the gung-ho Chris who must eventually face the problem of balancing her ambition with her family ties. Julie Walters is a great foil as Annie, creating a delicate balance between warm loving wife, grieving widow and challenged friend. All the women (too numerous to itemise here!) are wonderful in their various roles. The men add an unusually tender and caring slant to matters, John Alderton and Ciaran Hinds being husbands almost too good to be true.

All up, with a great cast, strong script, beautiful scenery and lots of warm fuzzies (without the schmaltz!) this a film well-worth catching!

 

 

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