Director: Lone Scherfig
Cast: Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy, Jack Huston, Paul Ritter, Rachael Stirling
Running Time: 117 mins
Release Date: 21/4/17
Screened at the 2016 London Film Festival, THEIR FINEST showcases Britain’s finest talents in an affectionate homage to wartime film production.
It’s 1940 and the UK is suffering a year into the conflict, with bombs relentlessly dropped on UK cities. However, thirty million cinema-goers are reliant on the glories of the big-screen to take their minds off the tough times. Enter the Ministry of Information, who are producing propaganda films to be screened between the support and main features. Welsh Valley girl, Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) is brought in as a support screenwriter to resident scribe Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin) to focus on dialogue for any number of films to heighten the struggles of modern war-time woman as their loved ones head off to battle.
Cole reads of a newspaper story about a pair of twin sisters who allegedly made their way to Dunkirk on their father’s boat and did heroic things for the cause in Dunkirk and thus goes to seek out their input on a potential script about the Dunkirk conflict. However, it soon transpires, as is often what is in print, that the ‘truth’ is not all that simple….
Director Lone Scherfig encapsulates the period effectively as well as she did in AN EDUCATION and cine-astes will love the luscious film-making moments (personified at its height by a well-worn, but classic visual gag on location!)
Fans of the gentler Coen Brothers output like BARTON FINK, THE HUDSUCKER PROXY and the recent HAIL CAESAR! will certainly enjoy this movie, which is both poignant and heartwarming in its nostalgic reminiscences. If there are any criticisms to bear, it is perhaps a little too reliant on the World War II period and images to make its point, something that British Cinema has been doing for decades, even during the course of the actual conflict itself.
This should not detract too much from a highly enjoyable movie that evokes, in the pseudo-movie production dailies, memories of the early colour offerings from the period like THE RED SHOES and HENRY V, which were defining offerings of the time, especially the latter being perceived as a war cry from director/star Laurence Olivier to the nation and the military.
Bill Nighy steals the show as the veteran actor, struggling with his future and the role lined up for him in this project. Gemma Arterton leads the line and portrays Catrin with all the confident poise of a girl from the Welsh peninsula. Jeremy Irons and Richard E. Grant add balance as respectively the Secretary of War and the Head of the Ministry of Information.
All in all, THEIR FINEST has the right blend of gentle humour and pathos to uplift the audience, given the uncertainty in the world at present.