Set in the midst of World War Two in London, Their Finest tells the story of scriptwriter Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) and the production of a wartime film to boost British morale. Directed by Lone Scherfig, it makes a fine case for the power of filmmaking through a mostly compelling and moving feature.
It’s 1940 and Mrs Cole is unexpectedly hired to be the “women’s voice” of a propaganda film about a Dunkirk rescue mission, alongside cynical and chauvinistic writer Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin). Later on, self-loving actor Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy) is brought on board, whilst Cole’s marriage is also put under strain as she becomes the household breadwinner and a potential new romance emerges – all under the tragic umbrella of the deadly war where harsh realities are not withheld. Surprisingly witty as well as tragic, the drama unfolds and events switch between being focal and secondary plots. Although it’s confusingly billed as a “romantic comedy”, Their Finest is more concerned with Cole’s journey as a woman in a man’s world.
Consequently, Cole presents a fascinating character whose trajectory is a joy to behold as she finds greater purpose in her film. Arterton is flawless in the role, a wonderful highlight who shines with earnest bravery, whilst Claflin outdoes his script, excelling in lines of dry humour. However, he is slightly let down by a character who frequently lacks depth. The movie’s secret weapon is a masterful Nighy, whose character may be ostensibly unlikeable but adds flair reminiscent of his rockstar role in Love Actually. The film’s hyperbolic take on actors is certain to provide hearty laughs; it must also be applauded for its empowered female characters – not just for the sake of it – and tackling feminist issues head-on by ridiculing them.
Their Finest has the potential to be fantastic, but it is let down by its dragged-out running time of nearly two hours, and unfortunately overshadowed by the final act’s misplaced focus on romance where it begins to feel like a new picture altogether. Ultimately, the feature tries to be too many things – a romance, drama, war drama, a film within a film – though is mostly successful, albeit at the expense of losing audience interest.
In one poignant closing scene, Hilliard tells Cole to “make the picture worth the hour-and-a-half someone pays to see it”, and in turn, this is a movie well worth paying to see; even if it is that bit longer, it is still a bold and charming story to be enjoyed.
Their Finest is released nationwide on 21st April 2017.
Watch the trailer for Their Finest here: