The Land Girls (1998) starring Catherine McCormack, Rachel Weisz, Anna Friel, Steven Mackintosh, Tom Georgeson, Maureen O'Brien, Paul Bettany directed by David Leland Movie Review

The Land Girls (1998)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Catherine McCormack as Stella in The Land Girls

The Cruel Land

"The Land Girls" is one of those movies which are less concerned about telling a story but capturing a period in history, that period is 1941 and World War II with women working on the farms whilst men went off to fight. That doesn't mean that "The Land Girls" is devoid of story it has drama and romance with a bit of humour but the focus of the movie is in recreating the period and the difficulties that the women who worked the land faced. As such I have to say that "The Land Girls" is not really my sort of movie, but that doesn't stop it from being both well made and entertaining.

The year is 1941 with the men of Britain off at war it is left to the women to keep things running. Three women Stella (Catherine McCormack - 28 Weeks Later), Ag (Rachel Weisz - Stealing Beauty) and Prue (Anna Friel - The War Bride) sign up to be land girls and find themselves living and working together on Mr. Lawrence's (Tom Georgeson) farm. As the seasons roll by Mr. Lawrence and his wife warm to the three young women whilst each of them in turn warm to his son Joe (Steven Mackintosh) who helps to keep the farm running.

Anna Friel and Rachel Weisz in The Land Girls

One of the nicest things about "The Land Girls" is that unlike the majority of movies which focus on World War II it approaches the subject by focusing on the women who kept things going in the absence of men. It should allow for an intriguing period drama which highlights the difficulties which these women encountered both on a physical and emotional level. And to be honest it does explore this side as we watch a trio of women win over a farmer who is not so happy to have women on his farm whilst there is also an element of the emotional side as they fear for their loved ones lives. But the trouble is and in a way this is contradicting what I said before it tries to make it a romantic melodrama as we watch these women deal with romance in various ways.

Because it feels like it's trying to make more of the romantic side of things as each of these women end up falling for Joe the farmers son it dilutes what could have been a far more interesting look at the hardship of war. It skews the actual drama so that whilst there are some really good bits like the women watching a city in the distance being bombed you then get an almost tawdry side as Prue manipulates Joe into bedding her. This flicking between trying to capture how it was with I believe a manufactured love story just doesn't work; it doesn't blend smoothly and almost feels awkward as it moves towards being contrived. Not that I am saying that in the absence of their loved ones romance didn't unexpectedly blossom but it feels like too much is crammed into the one movie when it comes to the romantic drama side.

Despite this it has to be said that "The Land Girls" is a surprisingly entertaining movie with a delicious palette which draws you into the countryside setting. It does seem to jump about a bit but watching the farm going through the various seasons is a visual pleasure with some beautiful scenic shots such as the luscious green field next to the babbling brook, light cascading through an adjacent forest glade. And also making it entertaining is the humour found from the awkward situation, the feisty women giving as good as it gets with an almost obstinate farmer who starts of begrudging them ends up warming to them as if they were his own daughters. It all works, it's just a shame that the balance between capturing the feeling of the era with the romantic drama doesn't work as well as everything else.

As for the acting well it has to be said that each of the women Catherine McCormack, Rachel Weisz, Anna Friel look gorgeous and don't disappoint but some fair better than others. Whist Anna Friel is amusing as the energetic Prue, Rachel Weisz as Ag seems underserved by a script which rarely calls on her to be nothing other than posh or at least sounding it. But Catherine McCormack as Stella makes the greatest impact, unsurprising as most of the drama is built around her character as she has to deal with falling for Joe whilst engaged to Philip, who is in the forces. It is through McCormack that we witness the difficulties encountered by these women during the war as well as making the often jarring romantic drama work.

And aside from this trio of lovely actresses, Tom Georgeson provides plenty of humour as farmer Mr. Lawrence and Steven Mackintosh as his son Joe manages to find some real emotion from an almost comical character. All in all the acting is nothing less than solid but at the same time is not outstanding either.

What this all boils down to is that "The Land Girls" is an entertaining movie which tries to do two things, deliver a romantic drama whilst also showing how hard it was for the women who went to work on the farms during World War II. It doesn't manage to be a brilliant movie with the two elements almost jarring but between some nice acting and beautiful scenery it does grab your attention and keeps it till it's all over, unfortunately little of what you watch stays with you for that long after.