Movie Review: Their Finest
Their Finest received a U.S. theatrical release back in April of this year after being screened at the 2016 Toronto Film Festival. The film is directed by Danish filmmaker Lone Scherfig, most notably known in the states for her film One Day. Their Finest follows a team tasked with making an authentic and optimistic film to boost morale in England in 1940. The film stars Gemma Arterton as Catrin Cole, Sam Claflin as Tom Buckley, and Bill Nighy as Ambrose Hilliard. The film also boasts a stunning supporting cast in Helen McCrory, Eddie Marsan, Rachael Stirling, Henry Goodman, and Richard E. Grant.
The film opens in London in 1940 where the Ministry of Information is tasking filmmaker Gabriel Baker (Goodman) and screenwriter Tom Buckley (Claflin) to make a film that can be “authentic and optimistic.” Catrin Cole (Arterton) is summoned for an interview at the film division of the Ministry of Information after being discovered by Buckley. She is hired to write more convincing female parts for the scripts of short, informational films. After she offends Hilliard (Nighy), a washed-up actor, she is banned from the set. Buckley takes this opportunity to tell her about a story of two sisters who supposedly rescued men from Dunkirk and could be an inspiration for this movie they are tasked to write. When Catrin interviews them, though, she finds that they never actually made it to Dunkirk due to engine trouble. She lies about their story to the Ministry of Information, though, in order to keep her job and make money that would allow for her to stay in London. The rest of the film follows their journey and complications in making this film during the London Blitz, which makes living in London a precarious situation.
While this film may have a bit of a slow start with some slow moments in the middle, it’s an intriguing storyline. There are so many important moments that can be covered during World War II, which makes the premise of this film quite different. It covers the making of a film about Dunkirk, and it highlights the importance of stories when morale is at its lowest and fear is running high. It also gives an inside look at filmmaking in the 1940’s, which I personally find fascinating. I know a lot of how films are made now, but it’s neat to see it happen without all of the technological advances we are afforded today. It’s also touching to see how a film has the ability to inspire and unite a whole country.
However, that’s not the only commentary during the course of the movie. There are so many themes running through this film, which is what I find so endearing about it. With Arterton playing the main character, she brings to light some of the social implications for women during the war. She is paid less than men when she takes the job. She is hired to write “slop,” which is what women’s dialogue is referred to by Buckley. When she suggests that the female characters do something heroic in the film, she is denied those storylines. She, like so many women during the war, were asked to step up and help yet still hindered by the fear that conventional roles would never return to normal after the war. Arterton does a great job of conveying all of this not through being loud and obnoxious but through her quiet strength and determined nature. She is a supremely talented writer and a strong individual, all of which is discovered throughout the course of the film.
Even with all of that transpiring in the film, it also subtlety captures the horror of war. It highlights the cost of war and specifically touches on how the British gave up their sons to one war and were giving up their grandsons to another. The story of Dunkirk is obviously inspiring, but through small moments, the danger of living in London is also captured. They may not be on the front lines, yet buildings are bombed, lives are taken, and safety is not guaranteed even for civilians. The movie truly touches on the fact that life is fragile and should be lived to the fullest.
Overall, this was a beautiful, moving film in my opinion. I loved the process of seeing a story come together, how facts are altered and embellished to provide a greater truth and hope to the audience. However, its the journeys and growth of Arterton and Nighy’s characters that truly make the film shine. Through them, the role of women, the horrors of war, and the fragility of life are all highlighted. Most of all, though, it’s a story of Britain rallying together during an exceedingly dark time. Their Finest can be found at your local Redbox, and I highly suggest that you give it a chance.