Calendar Girls was inspired by the real-life story of a fundraising event held by the Rylstone and District Women’s Institute in Yorkshire. The Women’s Institute was founded in Canada in 1897 to seek happiness in achievement. The Yorkshire housewives decided to pose nude for a calendar. This somehow sparked the imagination of the world and to date 300,000 calendars have been sold and the original calendar girls became international stars. Not only has the calendar sold well, the film took the British box-office by storm.
Director Nigel Cole made his feature debut with Saving Grace, an award-winning comedy about a middle-aged woman who goes into the cannabis trade. This time round he gathers a cast of mature women led by two of the grand dames of British film, Helen Mirren and Julie Walters, who are unafraid to get their gear off and bare all, wrinkles included. I must admit I had my doubts about this film, primarily because it was funded by the Yorkshire Tourist Board and was aimed at a US market, but I was pleasantly surprised.
Calendar Girls comes with no pretensions and is quirky, feel-good British fare. It is actually refreshing to see a film that is funny and uplifting rather than one that yet again surveys a bleak post-Thatcherite Britain where everyone is miserable and about to slash their wrists. The film actually gets better as it goes along despite dipping towards the end, and manages to sustain the pace set in the beginning thanks to the performances of all the cast.
The scenery itself will be enough to capture those viewers who love the Wharfdale region, an area where many a British drama has been shot. Calendar Girls will appeal to fans of Helen Mirren and Julie Walters and to all those who love an old-fashioned, very British story.