By Adam Ray Palmer
Today’s review comes courtesy of a comedy-drama produced in right here in Britain by BBC Films called Their Finest.
Directed by Danish filmmaker Lone Scherfig; Their Finest stars the impeccably casted Gemma Arterton, Bill Nighy, Sam Claflin, Helen McCrory and Richard E. Grant.
There’s a charm to Their Finest and let me tell you why…
From the outset, World War II relentlessly rages on but this won’t deter a plucky and determined London film crew who are working on a movie intended to boost the shattered nation's morale. Catrin, Gemma Arterton providing a loveable Welsh accent, is hired to work on a script after amplifying the facts of a Dunkirk-related rescue story to her co-writers and producers.
As the film grows, along with the movie the crew are trying to make, we see different relationships develop and blossom. With the backdrop of WW2, these friendships are needed more than ever in a tense time. It’s not without tribulations for Catrin to get her voice heard though, she must prove her talent to her terse yet handsome co-writer Tom Buckley (Claflin) whilst also trying to make her relationship work with boyfriend Ellis (Jack Huston).
Lone Scherfig’s more than capable directing hands works her magic again here. Like she did with An Education, Lone delivers a warming narrative told with fine filmmaking. The over-arching theme of a film-within-a-film is key here. Firstly, we see how a movie is put together through the writing, casting and directing. And then, Lone also uses the plotline as a distraction from the disastrous ‘goings-on’ around the country due to WW2.
Surprisingly, but certainly a welcomed pleasantry in Their Finest, there's plenty of humour with Bill Nighy providing most of the gags. Although, due to the core of the movie being Blitz-based, there’s more moments of mournfulness and longing related to the strain of living under constant siege from the Germans.
This drama oozes wit and grace with poignant writing told through incredible talent. It avoids all of the usual ways to tell WWII stories, instead focusing on the point of view of citizens left behind in the London bombings as the film crew are tasked with boosting morale and helping to bring the United States into the Allies' fold. Plus, it also deals with the stance the world lived in as Their Finest depicts the challenges that women had to face in the 40s.
Where this film succeeds, apart from the masterful script, is the casting department. The core group of Claflin, Arterton, Nighy, McCrory and E. Grant are superb. If anything, the supporting cast slightly overshadow the central protagonists, Arterton and Claflin, but that’s hardly a quibble, you can’t argue with the might of Nighy. Bill is a scene-stealer and is so finely-tuned, you can’t help but smile when he enters the shot. I would question though the amount of supporting characters included in Their Finest, I don’t think you need so many bit-part players as this pushes the runtime over an accepted amount for a comedy-drama. The final thirty minutes is a little bit of a slog, but the inclusion of that twist at the climax is more than likely to save the over-casting minor detail.
Cineroom’s Rating: 4 Stars
Their Finest is screening this week until Thursday 4th May – certificate 12A