YWorld War Two is a popular period for film. There are some truly unbelievable stories of heroism and great people during this time, either as a soldier or on the homefront. It was a time when film was a valuable weapon in the war; film could lift the spirits of a people, it could even convince a country to go to war. However, it was also a time when women were able to contribute as much as they could, as the younger men were drafted or signed up to go to war. Their Finest, directed by Lone Scherfig of An Education fame, deals with these exact themes.
Set during the early years of World War Two, Catrin Cole is hired by the Ministry of Information to write “Slop” or women’s dialogue. She and writing partner Tom Buckley are tasked with writing a moral boosting film about the Dunkirk evacuation that could bring America into the war.
So Their Finest is a strange film. I shouldn’t like it, it should be overly twee and sentimental, but despite this, I did find myself enjoying this film quite a bit.
This is in thanks in no small part to the wonderful performances by the central cast. Gemma Arterton does a stellar job as the accidental welsh screenwriter Catrin Cole. Her Cole is optimistic, witty, clever and cutting, able to deal blow for blow with Sam Claflin, better known as Finnick Odair in The Hunger Games, sarcastic Tom Buckley. However, it is Bill Nighy as veteran actor Ambrose Hilliard who had some of the best moments in the film, while Rachael Stirling from TV’s The Bletchley Circle channels Eve Arden as hard-edged Ministry worker Phyl Moore.
Their Finest, certainly isn’t the finest movie. There are sudden edits that didn’t work, there are dramatic changes in tone that feel poorly handled. There are a couple of moments in the film that occur during the blitz and the tone changes almost the instant that the bomb hits, which is something that is understandable but certain segments are poorly handled to make the whiplash that much greater and slightly laughable. It can also get a bit twee especially when it came to the love triangle that developed between Catrin, Buckley and Catrin’s artist husband Ellis, which I thought was entirely unnecessary. But the interesting story and fantastic characters carry the film past these choppy waters.
I must also say that I greatly appreciated the film’s clear awareness of war time films. Not only is Their Finest a film about the making of a propaganda film, but it also feels like a film made at the time. This is going to be a hard thing to clarify. But the film has an innocent charm to it that makes it incredibly endearing and reminiscent of other films made during and just after World War Two, like the Ealing Comedies. Someone said of the film that it is a stealth charmer and I wholly agree: I was charmed despite my original expectations.
Their Finest is a piece of fluff, it is a feel-good film about likeable, relatable characters. But despite it not going to change the world, it is still a good and outshines anything else that has been released in cinemas recently.
You can watch Their Finest at your choice of Cinemas now