David Leland is a fun but somewhat unfairly overlooked talent in British television and cinema circles, whether it is his TV plays such as Psy-Warriors or his films like Wish You Were Here or Personal Services, a production of his is always worth watching. And so too is The Land Girls from 1998, a film he directed and co-wrote. Indeed, on some occasions, the shadow of Wish You Were Here - perhaps his best known feature - looms over this production, especially when Anna Friel's flighty flirty character evokes memories of Emily Lloyd's naughty teenager.
Friel is just part of the ensemble or more specifically the trio at the heart of the film; the other being Rachel Weisz, lying at the opposite end of the character spectrum to Friel, playing the former Cambridge student so far unsullied by carnal knowledge, whilst somewhere in the middle of the two lies Catherine McCormack as perhaps the film's central heroine. McCormack was one of those actors who briefly shone - albeit in an satisfyingly understated way - in the late 90s and early 00s with several major credits. As her co-stars here have gone from strength to strength in their respective TV and film paths, McCormack has somewhat disappeared (though she was most recently spotted as Lord Lucan's ill fated wife in ITV's Lucan)
Away from the trio the film is bolstered by performances from the great Tom Georgeson, Maureen O'Brien and Steven Mackintosh as the farming family who take the Land Girls in to help farm their land for the war effort.
The film captures a feeling of the passing seasons and the perils of wartime rather well but it drops the ball in terms of depicting the work and role of the Land Girl movement during WWII. Instead it seems to prefer to focus on the tangled love affairs of our heroines, specifically as each of them come to grips with Mackintosh's farmer's son.
The script is occasionally lively and the performances of all concerned make the best of those moments and especially the humour, but one cannot escape the feeling that the whole thing runs out of steam long before the titles roll. It's a great pity.
Equally pitiable is the appalling quality of film grain presented here - at least on the Film 4 channel. I'm sure someone more technically minded can tell me what technique was used but the whole effect of the cinematography is so watery that occasionally long distance shots become an almost indistinguishable blur.
Nevertheless there is still much to enjoy with The Land Girls, I would argue it's a perfectly passable way to spend 115 minutes especially of a Sunday evening say. And what Can I say, I've always been a sucker for the Land Girl uniform *whistles*