wed 29/01/2020

Anzac Girls, More4 | reviews, news & interviews

Anzac Girls, More4

Anzac Girls, More4

Australian nurses-at-war drama lacks gravitas (and a decent budget)

War is hell? The Anzac Girls put a brave face on the Gallipoli campaign

For Australians and New Zealanders, the grim meat-grinder of the Gallipoli campaign in 1915 was their equivalent of the Somme, albeit under brilliant Aegean skies. The Australian-made Anzac Girls is based on real-life diaries and letters from the era, and homes in on five nurses from Down Under who were sent to treat the casualties. Inevitably they found conditions far more shocking and horrific than they'd imagined.

However, as the BBC discovered with its own nurses-at-war yarn The Crimson Field, this fraught and poignant environment may theoretically sound like a goldmine for drama, but it's difficult to make it function convincingly on the screen. As we see again here, the problem is that the set-up keeps veering towards soap and melodrama, though perhaps it would be less likely to if the casting director hadn't recruited what look more like models or a dance troupe than dedicated medical professionals. Laura Brent, playing Sister Elsie Cook, could be Aussie hot-to-go girl Margot Robbie's sister, while Georgia Flood (playing Alice Ross King) approaches the Great War with the flirty exuberance of a cheerleader at the Big Bash twenty20 cricket tournament.

The girls are well matched by the soldiery, who all seem to be chiselled young men with serious chart potential, led by officers who are firm of jaw and twinkling of eye. For much of this opening episode, Anzac Girls was The Dating Game, as Alice enjoyed sightseeing trips to the Pyramids with the eager Lieutenant Smith, then later found herself being seduced by the poetry of Omar Khayyam as recited by Lieutenant Harry Moffitt. Meanwhile Elsie managed to slip away from the beady invigilation of Matron Wilson to have it off with her husband Syd in his army tent (she'd had to keep her marital status secret because nurses were only permitted to be widowed or single).

Also injurious to credibility is the parsimonious budget, dictating that depictions of warfare are restricted to distant flashes and bangs and glimpses of fuzzy CGI warships. Hence, you feel you're being given this alternative behind-the-scenes view of the war because they couldn't afford to take the viewer out there onto the beaches and into the trenches.

Long story short, I couldn't take this very seriously, although at least Lt Moffitt gave us a potted summary of why the Gallipoli campaign mattered to Australia. It was a chance for a young country to stand up and punch its weight in the world, and come out from under Britain's shadow. A bigger theme for a bigger programme, perhaps.

Nurse Alice approaches the Great War with the flirty exuberance of a cheerleader at the Big Bash twenty20 cricket tournament


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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