Tricia Stewart, one of the original members of the Rylstone Women's Institute in north Yorkshire that inspired the new British film Calendar Girls, reviews the big-screen version of real-life events.
Calendar Girls is expected to be a runaway US success
In July 1998, John Baker died of non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.
His wife and her friends, members of the local WI, decided to do a calendar to raise funds for research into the disease which had caused John's death.
The idea was to do an "alternative" WI calendar, dedicated to John's memory and featuring the traditional WI crafts - but the ladies would be bare.
The film Calendar Girls is based on this true story. Although it is dramatised and fictionalised, the film remains true to the heart of the calendar story and the reasons behind it.
Like the calendar, this film is destined to touch the audience's heart and will prove inspirational for a lot of people.
Friendship is at the centre, not only in the closeness and the humour between the two main characters, but also in the camaraderie and support of all the women, when Annie loses her husband.
They rally together to produce a calendar totally against the image of the Women's Institute, not mocking the WI, but laughing at themselves and involving the audience in the joke from the opening scene.
Calendar Girls: "Salt of the earth" quality
The humour is universal as the film charts the journey of the women through the challenges that come with instant fame.
The casting of Julie Walters as the deeper Annie and Helen Mirren as the extrovert Chris is inspired.
The sadness in Annie's eyes is heartbreaking, but at no point does the film exploit that sadness.
Helen Mirren captures the essence of Chris, the kind of woman who dreams up the idea of a calendar full of naked, middle-aged women.
With Penelope Wilton, Linda Bassett, Celia Imrie and Annette Crosbie, the six actresses seemed to become the "real six", sharing that same sense of humour which carried them through the highs and lows that accompanied the success of the calendar.
Introducing a normal teenage son embarrassed by his mother's nudity ensures laughter and sympathy from the younger generation.
Husbands Jem and Gaz are wonderful characters who you feel will be friends for life.
The "real" husbands did not see the photographs until the day the calendar was launched.
The scene in the pub when Lawrence tells the men the naked calendar has been completed is not a million miles from the truth.
They know it is nude, but not the extent of the nudity.
Relationships are tested and friendships strained as in real life.
The bitter argument between Annie and Chris did not happen, but all those emotions, jealousies and insecurities evolved between the original women. How could they not?
What started as a three-week venture turned into a roller coaster that has not stopped yet.
This is an honest, uplifting and inspirational film showing the positives that can come out of tragedy and that laughter really is the best medicine.
Calendar Girls opens in London on 5 September and nationwide on 12 September.
Have you seen the film? What did you think? Will it be as big as The Full Monty? This debate has now closed but you can see a selection of your comments below.
Fortunately visiting the UK and had the chance to see this brilliant film. Both Helen Mirren and Julie Walters gave superb performances. The British have a great knack to combine humour with sadness. Certainly a film to be watched several times.
Pat Haselwood, Germany
Great movie, and by far the best I have seen for ages! A film with true messages behind it, which are portrayed in subtle ways.
I found myself laughing and on the edge of my seat yet tearful on occasions and the time just whizzed past, for I was truly captured.
As far as I'm concerned, this is Britain at its best, and this film wipes the floor with the Full Monty, which I never enjoyed!
I saw the movie this evening. I thoroughly enjoyed it - a great cast. I found it emotional and moving at times but extremely funny. I would definitely recommend this film to both men and women (my husband thoroughly enjoyed it too).
Best film I have seen in years, and the best thing of all - both of my daughters enjoyed it as well.
Jane Thompson, Tamworth, UK
A very enjoyable film. However, I felt that Helen Mirren (at least, the way her character was written) became a little "theatrical" towards the end of the film. Great to hear some Blues in the film...
David Raison, England
I've been waiting months for a half-decent film to come out and finally my (im)patience is rewarded!
Julie Walters was wonderful as always. The writers resisted the usual schmaltz and irrelevant boy-girl sub-plots, and Chris and Annie's family relationships were not overly described and spelt out. It is nice to feel that film producers think enough of their audiences to leave some things for us to work out for ourselves!
I left the cinema feeling thoroughly satisfied.
It's a brilliant idea, both in the original concept of raising money and being developed into a film. Those acting the parts of the original WI Girls have done so with a passion that shows the depth of their talents. For anyone to call this film predictable, pathetic or assume middle aged women are old needs to wake up to the real world.
Susan Cowling, UK
Absolutely wonderful film from beginning to end. Helen Mirren and Julie Walters are excellent in the lead roles but so are the others. A film you can watch again and again.
I thought the film was thought provoking and amusing and thoroughly enjoyed it!!
Sarah Landes, England
What a lovely film! Funny, sad and inspiring all at the same time, with some very sharp and witty lines and a great take on life. Yes, it is a sanitised version of the truth, but the film is entertainment and not a promotional fund-raising video.
I recommend it!
Mum and I went to see Calendar Girls last night. What a wonderful film. There were many poignant moments for reflection on life, love and friendship. There were also many funny moments where the whole movie theatre was in stitches.
Orignating from North Yorkshire, the film had a special meaning for us and it was great to see the Yorkshire countryside being promoted in abundance! As I said before, a wonderful film. Well done to the original Calendar Girls for their success and for inspiring such a great film.
Jo Short, UK
I saw Calendar Girls in Thursday, the west end, it was great to see the film straight after it opened, It is a really great film, both funny and touching, The cast are amazing, they feel familiar from hours on our TV screen which perhaps makes them seem real as normal people in a funny way. The Airline product placement is a little obvious. other that that great. See it expect nothing and enjoy.
Had the good fortune to see this movie over the weekend, the acting is amazing, and even the treatment of one of their husband's death is peppered with amazing humour, which ensures that film never loses its 'sparkle'. Helen Mirren, Julie Walters and the rest of the 'girls' are just amazing. We laughed and cried from the start to the end!
I wanted to see a film that delivered all the laughs it promised and this film did just that. Having been disappointed by other so-called feel good, funny films - Calendar Girls gave me belly laughs throughout. Some excellent gentle comic performances from the people involved. Thanks - I need the laughs!
I have just been to see Calendar Girls at my local cinema and I cried and laughed all the way through. Helen Mirren and Julie Walters give scintillating performances in their lead roles and they are brilliantly supported by Ciaran Hinds and John Alderton, their screen husbands. I am convinced the film will be a huge success and deservedly so. Recommended for those who enjoy films about traditional middle class down-to-earth Britishness!
It is a really great film, both funny and touching. The cast are amazing and feel familiar from hours on our TV screen which perhaps makes them seem real as normal people in a funny way. See it, expect nothing and enjoy.
The best film I have seen for a long time. I enjoyed it from the first minute to the very last. It's certainly inspirational and very true to real life. Can't wait to buy the DVD!
Rosemary Meadows, uk
Pathetic and predictable film about some old people taking their clothes off. The British film industry should really examine itself. The only people getting a kick out of this are the actresses and the original "calendar girls". Yet another excuse for the same old TV/B Movie has-beens to get yet another job at the expense of new talent. Is this as good as it gets in England ? Surely there must be better ideas, talent and scripts out there ?
Truly inspirational movie. Great script, cast,acting, scenery et al!! Very enjoyable and thought provoking
sarah emberson, UK