Movie Review By Andrea Chase
"The Land Girls" have been complaining of late that their contributions to the war effort in England during WWII have gone unrecognized. That's a shame, because they're the ones who kept the agricultural side of the war effort going after the men went off to fight and the Nazi blockade made importing anything problematical. Certainly I, a reasonably well-informed human being, had never heard of the Woman's Land Army until I saw David Leland's perfectly wonderful film about them. It's a bittersweet look at a time when good and evil were readily identifiable and everyone pulled together to make sure the good guys won despite the personal costs involved.
We meet the three land girls when they arrive at the Lawrence farm in Dorset. They may have had only minimal training, but that hasn't dampened their enthusiasm. Mr. Lawrence, however, has his reservations, having taken them on only to meet government production quotas in the face of his son, Joe's coming enlistment. The inevitable clash of country folk versus city folk is handled deftly. Added to this is the interesting mix of classes among the land girls themselves. There's Ag, played by Rachel Weisz, the college woman headed for a law career, Prue, played by Anna Friel, the working-class hairdresser, and Catherine McCormick as Stella, the debutante. Before long, their differences pale in the face of the cause that's thrown them together. And a growing fascination with the lanky, laconically charming Joe.
Leland has a knack for capturing the warmth and the camaraderie that grows between these people from different walks of life thrown together while the war that has changed all their lives rages in the background. No melodrama, just real, painfully honest emotion.
He gets finely nuanced performances from his excellent cast, showing both their characters courage and the anxiety underneath. With small moments, fleeting and fragile, he tell us each characters whole story, as when one person tells of how he gets through a battle by imaging what it will be like to walk the dog again once the war is over.
"The Land Girls" is a knock-out, full of exquisite images and quiet moments of courage and duty. The Woman's Land Army couldn't have wished for a better tribute.
© 1998 - Andrea Chase - Air Date: 6/10/98
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