"The Land Girls" is a noble, if inert, attempt to pay homage to an extraordinary chapter in Britain's life during World War II. Although it depicts that time and its changing social mores with atmospheric intensity and detail, "The Land Girls" remains an oddly lifeless, albeit earnest, piece of history.
Stella (Catherine McCormack), Ag (Rachel Weisz) and Prue (Anna Friel) have all signed on to work in the Women's Land Army, a group formed during World War I when the young men who usually worked the farms and fields went off to war. The WLA -- or "land girls," as they were called -- showed up in rural towns and farms throughout the country to keep the farms running.
Stella, Ag and Prue -- one principled, one quirky, one flighty, all beautiful -- have been assigned in 1941 to a farm in Dorset, where an aging couple nervously awaits the conscription of their son Joe (Steven Mackintosh), who longs to be a fighter pilot. In the course of "The Land Girls," which recalls the wonderful "Hope and Glory" in its detailed depiction of Britain during wartime, the title characters find romance, heartbreak and unexpected reserves of strength.
Director David Leland captures the green, wet countryside of England with loving detail, the three lead actresses are lovely, Mackintosh is an appealing leading man, and the story ends on a touching, if predictable, note.
In fact, there's nothing objectionable about "The Land Girls" at all for audiences who prefer their films staid, tasteful and entirely lacking in pulse. "The Land Girls," which is based on the novel by Angela Huth, is pretty enough, and it effectively recalls a lost era of heroism and romance. But as a movie, it cries out to stay a book.
'The Land Girls'
Starring Catherine McCormack, Rachel Weisz, Anna Friel
Directed by David Leland
Released by Gramercy Pictures
Rated R (some sexuality)
Running time: 112 minutes
Sun Score: ** 1/2
Pub Date: 7/10/98