Touching true story (“based on”) about a breakaway faction of the middle-class, middle-England Knapely branch of the Women’s Institute. One year, instead of doing a traditional calendar featuring scenic bridges and churches, they decided to do a nude calendar with themselves as models. Their goal was to raise money for charity, and they found success and renown far in excess of their initial modest goals.
The story starts off small, focusing on a couple of characters (Chris and Annie, brilliantly played by Helen Mirren and Julie Walters), and the reason for doing the calendar in the first place. It then expands to cover more of the women of the village, and folds their stories into the mix. The film loses focus in the third part, when the calendar becomes a huge success, and the women travel to America on a promotional tour. At this point, we’ve just had a major climactic moment. The screenplay struggles to turn the emotional conflict around, and to re-examine the relationship between Chris and Annie. It does produce an adequate resolution in the end, but the effort of doing so obliterates several sub-plots that I had hoped would get more attention. Still, it’s a lovely film, full of laughs and touching personal triumphs.