The Land Girls (1998)

 

 

 

Director:     David Leland.

Starring:     Catherine McCormack (Stella), Rachel Weisz (Ag, Agapanthus), Anna Friel (Prue, Prudence),  Steven Mackintosh (Joe Lawrence),  Tom Georgeson (Mr. John Lawrence),  Maureen O'Brien (Mrs. John Lawrence), Lucy Akhurst (Janet), Gerald Down (Ratty, Lawrence Farm Hand), Paul Bettany (Philip), Nick Mollo (Barry Hampton), Michael Mantas (Desmond), Nicholas Le Prevost (Agricultural Officer), Celia Bannerman (District Commissioner), Ann Bell (Philip's Mother), Nigel Planer (Gerald).

the Women's Land Army starring Catherine McCormack, Rachel Weisz, Anna Friel

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

"1941.  Britain is at war with Germany.  As farm workers leave the land to join the armed forces, women from all walks of life volunteer to take their place.  They call themselves 'The Women's Land Army'".

Farmer John Lawrence touches the railway track with his hand.  He stands up with his back to the oncoming train. The station master says:  "Hey! Clear the track, please!"  Just before the train is almost upon him, he casually walks off the tracks.  The train stops at the station and lets off three women of the Women's Land Army.  Mr. Lawrence drives the women to his farm.  His wife watches from a second floor window as the car pulls up. 

The young women are: Stella, who is in love with Philip and works in an office; Ag, who doesn't have a current boyfriend and is very choosey; and Prue, a hairdresser, who is very active sexually speaking.  Stella as narrator makes an understatement:  "When the war came, it changed everybody's lives."  She is idealistic saying:  "We all had to pull together to help win the war."  She chose the Lawrence farm specifically so she could be near her fiancÚ, a naval officer. 

It's dinner time.  Mr. Lawrence is a real sour puss.  Here the women are coming to help in a good cause and he can only look at the experience as a negative one.  Mrs. Lawrence is much kinder and gentler.  Prue goes on and on about her experiences with trying to milk a cow and Mr.. Lawrence grows more irritated by the second.  He declares himself "finished" and immediately leaves the table. 

In the upstairs are three beds for the women.  Stella comments:  "They don't like us."  The optimist Prue says their attitude will change.  Mrs. Lawrence comes to to check on the women.  She tells them that her son Joe is going to join the Royal Air Force (RAF).  That's why they asked for help.  She also tells the girls to not be put-off too much by Mr. Lawrence. 

In bed Mr. Lawrence comments to his wife that the Women's Land Army is not an army at all, but rather an "excuse for a lark".   His wife reminds him that it was his idea in the first place.  Husband answers that what else could he do given the "bloody" Ministry is always on his back to grow more and more crops to feed the army and the regular citizens. 

At night the three women hear the sounds of explosions.  Stella gets up and decides to investigate.  She is joined by the two other women and they run toward the sound of the explosions.  They reach a ridge and stop.  Prue says it looks bad for Southampton.  Stella's Philip is staying in Southampton. 

As the women tramp back home, they see a fellow (Joe) coming along the road on his motorcycle.  Prue imagines that he is a dashing Italian prisoner of war. 

It's time to milk the cows and Mr. Lawrence and Joe Lawrence lead the cows from the field to the milking barn.  Prue sees Joe and speaks to him in Italian.  Since Joe knows a little Italian, he says a couple of words of Italian back to her.  Prue tells the girls:  "See?  I told you."  She soon finds out that her Italian is the son Joe and she tells the girls:  "Well, he doesn't have to be Italian."  Joe helps the women with the milking. 

Later everyone, including a bunch of neighbor kids, picks up the potatoes off the ground to put them in bins.  When Stella starts walking away to find a private place to relieve herself, Joe teases her by letting everyone know where she is going.  Back home Stella and Ag speak badly of the rude Joe, but Prue says she would like to have sex with him.  The other two don't like that idea.  They take their baths in a large portable bath tub. 

Alone at night, Stella watches the explosions taking place over in Southampton.  She later goes to the barn and watches Joe dry off one of the draft horses.  The horse senses her presence and turns its head to look at Stella.  Joe now turns his head to see what the horse is looking at.  He asks Stella if she is sleepwalking?  She says yes and departs. 

In the morning Prue sees Joe watch her carry two buckets, so she puts them down by the outside stairs and walks up to the hay loft.  Joe wants to know where she is going, so he marches over and up to the hay loft.  Prue is walking along the beam like a tight rope walker.  She falls off and pretends to have hurt her back.  Prue tells him he has to loosen her belt.  They kiss.  Stella comes over to Ag and asks where Prue is?  She points to the hay loft.  Where's Joe?  Again she points to the hay loft.    

Mr. Lawrence wants to know where Joe is.  He sees the two buckets by the outside stairs and starts to go up to the hay loft.  Ag stops him by yelling that Joe is out in the fields working.  Dad turns around and goes out to the fields.  Meanwhile Joe is finishing putting on his clothes.  His mother looks at him with a strange expression.  Joe sees her now, but he's not saying anything and mother keeps quiet too.  Out in the fields they are tying up the hay to store it. 

Peter from the Ministry walks over to the East Meadow.  He wants Mr. Lawrence to plow and plant two fallow fields, but the farmer loves the two pasturing sites and doesn't want to plow them just to please the Ministry.  Peter says he's got to plow 20 more acres.  He shouts to Mr. Lawrence:  "There's a war on, John.  Hungry mouths to feed."

On Sunday everyone attends Sunday service.  Joe is even in the choir.  Walking home Joe's girlfriend Janet gives the immediate family a ride home in her car.  The women say they will walk home.  Everyone has Sunday dinner together.   Prue asks Janet a lot of questions.  Stella asks Joe a couple of questions about what he will do in the RAF. 

After dinner in the fields Ag says she's 26 and still a virgin.  Prue is astonished.  At night Prue slips into bed with a sleeping Joe.  He is surprised.  Prue kisses him.  They start smooching and doing other things.

In the morning Joe is up late and his father yells at him to get himself together.  And why hasn't he gone down to join up yet?  That's why he brought the girls in here.  Joe gets irritated and jumps on his bicycle to get away from his father.  He says he will start on the East Meadow.  Of course, father yells:  "You bloody leave that East Meadow alone, boy!"   It's not a good time for it, but Stella asks is she can visit with her fiancÚ who has just gotten some leave time.  In short, the boss says no, which really disappoints Stella. 

Stella sees Joe plowing in the field with the two draft horses.  She walks over to him to give him his lunch.  Stella then tells him that his mother does not look very well.  Joe just says: "Ay."  Now Stella asks him where is this East Meadow?  He says she walked over it while bringing him his lunch. 

In Dorset, they have a parade complete with military men, boy scouts and members of the Women's Land Army.  After the parade, a woman spokesperson talks to the crowd.  She says that they have earned enough money to buy another Spitfire for the air force.  There is a lot of clapping over this accomplishment.  Prue sees Philip in the audience and she nudges Stella who didn't even look to see if Philip was there.  Right on cue, a Spitfire shows up and does a lot of fancy rolls in the sky.  The crowd cheers for the pilot and the plane.  The pilot waves to the crowd.  Joe stops his plowing to watch the rolls.

December 7, 1941.  The locals show up for a dance.  Stella, Prue and Ag dance with the servicemen.  Prue shows the wallflower Ag how to cut in on a couple in order to get a dance.  She demonstrates her moves for Ag.  Joe sees Prue dancing with a serviceman and gets jealous and a bit angry.  So Joe cuts in on a tall serviceman.  A serviceman named Desmond comes over to Ag and asks her to dance.  She takes an immediately liking to him so she dances with him.  Prue is busy kissing her serviceman.  Ag asks her fellow if she can wait for him?  Joe is busy in a car trying to have sex with his servicewoman.  The tall fellow comes looking for her and ends up hitting Joe right in the eye. 

The dancers parade around in a circle while sing the Lambeth Walk.  Stella sits down by Joe and asks him what happened to him?  He says he was attacked. 

The spokeswoman stops the music for a moment to announce that Japan has attacked the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pear Harbor.  Japan has declared war on the United States.  Then she shouts:  "The Yanks are in on our side!"  The dancers all cheer the last part. 

Stella pats the blood off Joe's face using his handkerchief.   She asks him why he didn't ask her to dance?  He says because of all the "posh" officers at the dance.  Stella says she would have preferred to dance with Joe.  Now she asks where did Joe get attacked?  Then she wants to know if this has something to do with that WAAF she saw him with  Joes says no, but Stella thinks yes.  She gets angry, scolds Joe, tells him he deserved the hit in the eye and leaves.

Stella stands on top of the gate to the East Meadow and just stares at the viewt.  Soon she is joined by her two friends. 

Early in the morning, Mr.. Lawrence hears the tractor being started up.  Then he sees Stella driving the tractor.  Mr. Lawrence comes up to her on the tractor and she stops plowing.  She expects to be balled out by the boss, but he only asks if she did this out of anger with him?  Stella says it did start out that way.  Mr. Lawrence tells her that this meadow is just beautiful in the spring.  But then he starts up the tractor for her and tells her to finish the job.

Mrs. Lawrence almost collapses at the kitchen table.  Stella puts her in her bed and runs to get Mr. Lawrence.  The doctor comes over to check on the woman.  Later the boss comes out and says that his wife has a heart murmur.  Mr. Lawrence says she has always had it.  The doctor told him it started up again because of her fatigue.  At the kitchen table, the boss tells Stella that he bought the farm in 1918 just after he had left the army at the end of World War I.  He adds that he owes her some time off, so she can take it now to go an see her fellow. 

Joe tells his mother that he will postpone joining the air force until after Christmas. 

Stella gets all dressed up and with a suitcase in her hand, she waits for Joe to give her a ride.  He shows up on his motorcycle. He's upset about her going and really drives recklessly on the wet roads.  At the station he is still mad and starts questioning her about where her engagement ring is and when is she going to marry?  The train arrives and Stella gets aboard headed for Stamford. 

Prue tells Ag to ask Joe to have sex with her.  She even recommends Joe. 

Stella and Philip walk along the shore next to the barbed wire.  He asks her if she has changed her mind about getting married?  She says:  "No. Never."

Prue pushes Ag to catch up with Joe and ask him to give her a go.  Once Joe makes certain of what he heard, he tells Ag:  "Who the hell do you lot think I am?  Bloody hell!"  He walks off.  Ag says:  "Yes, of course you're right.  I'm sorry, it was absolutely disgraceful!"  She yells:  "It was nothing personal!"

Philip and Stella get a room in a hotel.  Philip wants to have sex with her, but she suddenly and falsely says that she is on her period.  He apologizes to Stella and then doesn't touch her. 

At night, Joe comes to women's room and tells her he has changed his mind.  If she wants to do it, he is here.  She starts telling him a lot of information about her and her family.  She even throws in that she is a virgin. 

At night, Philip sits in a chair and looks out at the bombing.  He says what gets him through the war is thinking about Stella. 

Joeswith the car picks up Stella at the train station.  He asks her:  "Was it heaven?"   She answers:  "No, it was Southampton." 

With the girls in bed, Stella tells them she and Philip did not have sex.  At first, Ag denies having sex with Joe, but then she confesses. 

Christmas time.  The family, Janet and the three women attend church and then walk back to the farmhouse.  Prue is with Barry Hampton, the fellow she met at the dance.  They have Christmas dinner together.  They sing some Christmas songs.  Prue asks for some time off because she and Barry are getting married.  Everyone is so happy to hear the news.  Philip telephones Stella.  He asks her if she loves him?  She says of course she does.  She doesn't want to say too much because the family is very nearby, but she does finally say that she loves Philip. 

Joe speaks with Barry about flying and being scared. 

Barry and Prue marry. 

Not too long afterwards a messenger keeps winding around a in circle trying to find the Lawrence farm.  He finally sees a tractor pulling a flat bed with three Women's Land Army members sitting on the back.  He catches up with them and the girls have Ratty stop the tractor.  The messenger says he has been trying to find the Lawrence farm.  He's looking for a Land Girl, Prudence Hampton.  Prue tells him to give them the message and they will tell Prudence.  The message is that Barry Hampton went down in the Channel last night.  He keeps talking, but Prue tells him alright, they will give her the message.  She tells Ratty to start for home. 

Prue sits in the bath tub and the two women keep wiping her down with wash cloths.  She cries and cries about Barry, saying:  "You stupid silly fool of a boy! I told him:  'Be careful!'"

Stella comes outside and walks over to Joe.  She tells him that she loves him. 

The next day Joe goes to join the air force.  He, however, gets turned down because of his inherited heart murmur.  He goes as high as he can on the rafters of the barn and throws himself down onto the hay.  He gets up and does it again and again and again.  Finally, when he is about to jump once again, he hears a voice:  "Joe. What are you doing, Joe?"  He goes inside and tells his mother and father that they turned him down because of the condition of his heart.  He starts arguing with his father, until he's fully disgusted and starts to walk out.  Just then the sound of a very close airplane comes and goes over the farmhouse.  They rush outside and see a German airplane crash. 

Joe is very worried about Stella and he runs screaming "Stella."  They hug each other in the middle of one of the fields.  The pilot gets out.  He starts walking away from the plane, but suddenly the plane explodes and the pilot catches fire.  Joe finally puts out the fire on the pilot's back, but by that time he is already dead.  Later he tells Stella that when the plane crashed the only person he could think about was her.  She was the only one that mattered.   

Mom tells dad that their son never really wanted Janet anyway. 

Stella says she is going to Southampton to tell Philip that she loves Joe.  Mr. Lawrence comes over to them and gives new boots to Stella.  She is so happy, because the boots fit her.  That night Stella gets a telephone call from her mother.  Philip is in the hospital.  She has to go to Southampton. 

At the train station Stella tells Joe that she will be back no later than Tuesday.  Joe asks her to tell him if she is going to be latter, but Stella says she won't be latter than Tuesday.  They kiss.  Stella says:  "Trust me!  Trust me forever!  Tuesday!"  She gets aboard the train. 

At the hospital, her once future mother-in-law runs into her.  She takes her to his hospital room.  Stella finds out that Philip has lost both legs beneath the knees.  One gets the suspicion that she will now stay with Philip out of concern not to hurt him any more than he has already been hurt. 

On Tuesday Joes goes down to the railway station and does the old trick that his father always does  --  turning his back to the oncoming train.  The train comes and goes, but there is no Stella. 

After the war.  Stella shows up for the christening of Prue's child.  Ag is there also.  Mr. Lawrence has died and Mrs. Lawrence says she misses Stella.  Now Prue and Ag come over and they have a three-way hug.  Later Prue introduces Desmond to Stella.  Prue introduces her husband Gerald to Stella.  Stella tells Ag that Philip and she are getting a divorce.  He left her for another woman.  Stella runs into Janet and her two children by Joe Lawrence.  Stella now goes and finds Joe. 

They take a walk and exchange small talk.  Stella has started her own travel business.  When Joe asks her about Philip she doesn't say what's happened to them.  She just says she and Philip are both fine.  Joe says:  "I waited at that station everyday for a week. I'm still there.  Waiting."  It's very lame she says:  "Everything was against us, wasn't it, Joe?  It just came at the wrong time."  Joes asks:  "Has it happened to you since?"  No.  Joe responds:  "Nor me."  They touch hands and then separate. 

As narrator Stella says:  "At that moment I thought I would never be happy again.  But I was wrong because there's always hope.  Just as some things always remain in the heart."

 

Spoiler Warning:  A good film with a lousy ending.  It was interesting following the lives of the three young members of the Women's Land Army.  Things were a bit tough at the beginning but the women eventually started softening the hard-heart of their boss, Mr. Lawrence.  Then they almost became part of the family, figuratively and in one case almost literally.  It was enjoyable watching the family and the women getting along so nicely at the Christmas of 1942.  There was sadness too, as with the death of one husband and the loss of the legs of a fiancÚ, but it was mostly cheery and uplifting. 

But the ending sucked.  Stella loved Joe.  She had fallen out of love with her navy fiancÚ Philip.  Stella travels to Southampton to tell Philip it's over.  She goes to the hospital there and finds that poor Philip has lost his two legs beneath the knees.  So this genius decides to marry Philip, when she actually loved John.  Now that's just wrong.  It's not fair to her and it wasn't fair to Philip.  What man wants to marry a woman who is in love with another man?  That's a rotten thing to marry someone under this type of illusion.  Joe had asked Stella to call him and tell him if she was going to be later than Tuesday.  She told him it wouldn't be necessary to call him because she would be back no later than Tuesday.  So she stands Joe up.  He waited everyday at the railway station for a week for her return.  But she never telephoned,  never telegraphed, never even wrote him a note.  But she does marry a man who she doesn't love.  Unacceptable!  You can't base a good marriage on pity, especially if you love someone else.  So I don't like this character Stella, the weak one who succumbed to her own feelings of pity for a person she did not love.  By the way, Philip eventually left Stella for another woman.  How can you fake love when you don't love someone?  I think Philip would have discovered what she did because out of her own weakness.  He must have felt cheated and going with another woman was a way of telling off Stella and starting life over with a real shot at love.  The final scene between Stella and Joe was so lame.  And Stella's last comment was also lame.  And she never did apologize to Joe or Philip. 

And Joe is also too weak.  He should have gone to the Southampton hospital, found Stella and talked to her that she has no obligation to marry a man that she does not love. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

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