★★★ | Their Finest
A film about London in 1940 during The Blitz is finally being released in theatres – Their Finest – a year and a half after principal photography began and 6 months after it had its European premiere at the London Film Festival in October 2016.
I’m not entirely sure why it has taken this long for the film to finally make it into the cinemas – it’s not a bad movie, but it’s also not a great movie.
Their Finest details a motley crew of screenwriters tasked with writing a script for a film that would hopefully lift up Britain’s flagging spirits during WWII as well as inspire America to enter the war. That’s a lot of responsibility for three people to take on, in a film based on the 2009 novel by Lissa Evans. Gemma Arterton’s character Catrin Cole (based on a real woman, Diana Morgan, who wrote for Ealing Studios) actually has no screenwriting experience, but she’s basically just looking for a paycheck to help her artist husband Ellis (Jack Huston) pay the bills. But she gets more than what she bargained for when she’s hired by the British Ministry of Information to assist Tom Buckley (a very good Sam Claflin) on a film script. Winston Churchill tells them that they need to write a story that will inspire the nation, and so they write a propaganda film amidst all that is happening in Europe. But it’s Bill Nighy as the leading man of their film (playing Ambrose Hillard) who steals the movie. He’s wonderful and witty and oh so debonair when he’s on set in the making of the movie within the movie, and he’s wonderful off the set when he’s telling jokes to the rest of the cast and crew, and tender and fatherly when he is giving advice to Catrin. But all is not ok in her life, she catches her husband cheating on her on one of her few visits she makes to their home, and her and Buckley realize they have more in common with each other than just putting words to paper. Set this all against the backdrop of WWII and what you’ve got is a classic in the making.
But Their Finest is not quite a classic. Some of the scenes look a bit staged, not very realistic for a film that relies on the portrayal of London during the Bliz. Arterton is fine and lights up the screen with her beautiful face, and Claflin is very handsome as her mentor, but director Lone Scherfing (who directed the wonderful An Education with Carey Mulligan) along with a script by Gaby Chiappe, don’t quite make it 100% believable. Production values are fine, costumes wonderful and the score very dramatic when it needs to be, but it’s Nighy that you will remember – he’s deserving of nominations for this film – but the film itself not so much.