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Their Finest review: a bittersweet wartime tale

September 18, 2016

FestivalsFilm + EntertainmentReview | by Dominic Preston


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This is another successful film from director Lone Scherfig (An Education), who has adapted Lissa Evans’s book Their Finest Hour and an Half with elegance and talent.

Set predominantly in London during the Second World War and in the midst of the Blitz, Their Finest focuses on a film production team that comes up with a new propaganda motion picture to help raise people’s spirits and awareness of the British Army out in the field.

Welsh country lass Catrin Cole, played by Gemma Arterton, is hired on as a young screenwriter and is teamed up to co-write the project with Sam Claflin’s passionate and charming Tom Buckley.

After Catrin hears the story of two twin girls who claimed that they took their father’s small boat to run away, but who then ended up sailing right into the battle of Dunkirk, she decides to pitch the tale to her colleagues. Soon after, and to her delight, the team begin writing the screenplay to produce it.

Her husband on the other hand is an artist, who is slowly making a name for himself and who struggles to stay enthusiastic with her success as she becomes the more financially stable of the pair. As the opportunities in her new career flourish, it begins to wear thinner between them. She chooses to relocate with the film crew for a stint in Devon and whilst feeling torn between her job and her man things develop in ways she’d never imagined.

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Although there are some parts of Their Finest that are a touch drawn out, Bill Nighy saves the day as Ambrose Hilliar, one of the actor recruited for the film within the film. Whilst his character in their film is valiant, in reality he’s a stubborn actor who refuses to believe he’s getting too old to play the hero. If it wasn’t for Nighy’s alluring charm and the stunning onscreen chemistry between Arterton and Caflin, the script may have struggled in being slightly too suffocating in sadness.

This film is inevitably a rather emotional romance movie, but actually by the end there is more to it than just that. It’s about the reality of how shattering the war was; it’s about the empowerment of women in the era; and it’s about rising up and recovering from life altering events that were so devastatingly unpredictable.

With its cast’s sweet flirtations, incredible cinematography by Sebastian Blenkov, and an unswerving musical score throughout, this is a bittersweet wartime tale reminding us of the intricate relationship of gain and loss.

Their Finest screened at the Toronto International Film Festival 2016.

Words by Lisa Coleman