Wonderously talented leads with a stellar supporting cast. A predictable love story with a shocking twist. Their Finest is a charming evening’s entertainment.
With public morale in war-time Britain at an all-time low, an ex-secretary is hired to write feminine flair into a propaganda film.
Cast: Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy.
Director: Lone Scherfig
This is a lovely little feel-good film with a shocking twist and a bittersweet ending.
The storyline trundles along fairly predictably, with Gemma Arterton twinkling as lovely welsh lass Catrine Cole, an ex-secretary who is brought in by a war-time film production company to write the ‘slop’, the ‘inane’ chat between women in films. The production company takes up the story of two girls who stole their father’s boat to aid in the evacuation of Dunkirk, and the story follows the production of this propaganda film from the scriptwriters’ point of view.
If you’re looking for a strong female role model in the next film you watch, but don’t like the kick-ass, loud role models that many promote, the Catrine Cole is your feminist icon. Quietly fiery, Gemma Arterton’s Catrine stands her ground against Sam Claflin’s Tom Buckley, and guns for a more prominent role for the female characters in their film. Catrine is the primary wage earner in her home, pays the rent on her flat, and even rather bravely negotiates her salary, something female employees DID NOT DO! Catrine had previously accepted a wage of £2 a week, a wage she is blatantly told is less than her male counterparts.
Sam Claflin is a wonderful actor. I love him. And he’s wonderful in this part…all apart from the fact that Sam Claflin does not pull off bookish particularly well. He’s too good looking and carries himself too well. But it doesn’t really matter. It makes no difference to how much you end up loving this character.
As for the film and production itself, it is beautifully well done. The costumes are exquisite. Throughout the film, Richard E. Grant and his production company tell us that war-time Britain wants authenticity in their films. Well, Their Finest delivers on its own kind of authenticity. The film carries a 12 rating, which I believe is due to the authentic details of a Blitzed Britain. This isn’t Game of Thrones; there’s no excessive blood, guts and gore for the sake of exciting a childish, easily excited audience. However, this film is set in London during the Blitz, and the Director Lone Scherfig (not a director I’d heard of, but one I will be keeping an eye out for) does not let us forget it.
Catrine at one point gets caught in an air-raid. The bomb she survives destroys a local shop, throwing mannequins all around the street. In the smoke and shock, Catrine believes the mannequins to be other victims. Upon realising her mistake, Catrine is sent into a hysteric laughing fit until she rounds a corner and finds the young woman leaving the tube station before her lying in the rubble, dead. The body is shown fully on camera, with authentic injuries, but is done in a way that does not take away from the storyline. We are simply seeing the horror that Catrine sees, nothing more.
A similar situation occurs when Bill Nighy’s character Ambrose Hilliard is asked to identify the body of his agent, Sammy Smith, as Sammy’s sister is unable to identify the body. Sammy’s body (shown on camera) is badly burned. Again, this is clearly not done for effect; it is just the horror of the Blitz. Hilliard at first believes that the body cannot be Sammy as his agent was missing two fingers on his left hand, and the body before him has all five fingers. The nurse then apologises, but they “try to make a whole body…for the relatives.” This is the horror and the truth of the Blitz and is tastefully nuanced in the film. Not done for effect, just for ‘authenticity’.
The ending, oh, the ending. It’s so bittersweet and lovely and heartbreaking and… I won’t spoil it for you. You’ll just need to watch it and see.
Where to watch it: Netflix