Since the release of this film, highlighting the extraordinary lengths a small town’s WI went to, to raise money for their local hospital, the trend for discreetly nude calendars displaying the most incongruous of models, has really take off, with many copy-cat productions doing well in terms of sales. But the original story is still the best, and most moving by far.
Annie is devastated when her loving husband of many years is diagnosed with cancer. Despite the rallying round of their friends in the close-knit community, he does indeed die, leaving behind a wife determined to do something to thank the local hospital for all the hard work they put into her husband’s care. While talking to Chris, her best friend, they come up with a plan to raise money through their local WI chapter; a calendar of members doing WI tasks- but with a difference. This will feature the ladies in a state of extreme undress! “Not ‘naked’- nude!” as one member puts it. The proposal splits the WI between those willing to give their all for a good cause, and those with a rather more traditional view. With fiery Chris leading the way, Annie and Chris even storm the WI conference in London, and after a heart-felt speech they receive the go-ahead so long as they do it discreetly. They secure the services of a local, broad-minded photographer, and having overcome their own shyness, the ladies find the experience as uplifting as the bras they gleefully abandon. And you will, too. Don’t be put-off by the idea of nude older actresses; these ladies prove that you really do get more graceful and statuesque with age, shining in their tasteful poses. As Annie’s husband is quoted as saying, “The flowers of Yorkshire are like the women of Yorkshire. Every stage of their growth has its own beauty, but the last phase is always the most glorious.” In a world rather too concerned with youth, this film is a testament to the beauty of experience.
The mushrooming success of the effort, with international sales of their calendar, as well as a trip to Hollywood (and the film’s real-life success at Cannes Film Festival), increase the sentimental factor of the film, even while Chris’ troubled relationship with her family and the response of the ladies’ husbands and Chris’ teenage son add some much-needed grit into what otherwise could have been a soppy film. Instead, it emerges with a sly grin and a broad sense of humour, with a gentle, knowing appeal.
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