Director: Lone Scherfig
Starring: Gemma Arterton,Bill Nighy & Sam Claflin
Synopsis: A former secretary, newly appointed as a scriptwriter for propaganda films, joins the cast and crew of a major production while the Blitz rages around them.
Rating: 12A Duration: 117 minutes Release date: 21 August (UK)
Their Finest is one of those films that falls into the “easy” category. By that I mean, it’s a fluffy, fun film that has serious elements but doesn’t suffocate the audience and become stifling. It’s relaxed and is a film perfect for viewing on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Whether or not you find those qualities endearing or not is up to the individual, but it’s hard to dislike a film as delightful as this.
Set during World War Two, 1940 to be precise, we meet Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) as she is approached by the British Ministry of Information who want her to write a short, informative film to boost morale for British citizens during the war. Once hired, she is immediately ridiculed and put down by her male colleagues who don’t take kindly to having a woman among them. Catrin’s battle is immediate and punctuated by the constant threat of the Germans bombing London. It’s a neat companion and gives the film a sense of drama and realism which negates the other more fluffy side of the film.
As Catrin weaves her way through the gender politics of the 1940’s she also has a husband and another potential suitor to contend with. Her husband; Ellis (Jack Huston) works from home as an artist who has a debilitating injury suffered during the Spanish Civil War and who blames himself for bringing Catrin to war-torn London. There is a sense of companionship here, but the two don’t feel compatible and are together through necessity rather than true loyalty to one another. On the other hand, her relationship with Tom (Sam Claflin) is at first professional but there is a spark there that feels real and genuine and has the audience rooting for the two in an honest sense.
Filling out the cast are a wonderful collection of character actors. Bill Nighy, Eddie Marsan, Henry Goodman, Richard E. Grant and Jeremy Irons help bring a sense of class to proceedings and make a mark even with limited screen time. Bill Nighy has great fun as Ambrose Hilliard, a famous war-time actor who knows his best days are behind him, but works away dutifully and his sardonic persona plays brilliantly against the rest of the cast, and Catrin in particular. Richard E. Grant and Jeremy Irons have little in the way of screen time as the head of film at the MOI and the Secretary of War respectively, and their calibre is felt even in the smallest of roles.
The main let down here is the film’s duration. At nearly two hours long there is too much filler here and Their Finest could really have been trimmed by half an hour or so. Ironically, about half way through, one characters remarks how films need only be an hour and a half long, something the director should have paid attention to. Still, Their Finest is smart, funny and has Gemma Arterton at her most charming. Which, when you think about isn’t that bad at all.
- Audio commentary from director Lone Scherfig
- Flickers of Hope: The Making of Their Finest