“Authenticity, optimism…and a dog!”
Great British comedies of bygone eras have always been centred on these principles, especially during World War II. The flood of bombing and men being sent to their deaths prompted the entertainment industry to develop chipper films and propaganda flicks to embolden the general public spirit. And whilst they may not be heroes in the popular term (perhaps the bottom-most rung of people who should be celebrated during the war,) nonetheless their stories are make for a fascinating cinematic romp.
Their Finest revolves around a group of screenwriters who are hired by the war effort to produce a morale-boosting feature to aide the general public and gain support of WW2. Cardiff born writer Katherine is enlisted and comes across a story of twin sisters who head to Dunkirk in order to save the stranded soldiers there.
Based on a book by Lissa Evans, Lone Scherfig develops a poignant comedy drama that hits a spot of cinematic entertainment that you possibly didn’t know was missing. There are many themes here in Their Finest that are perfectly balanced in the initial script by Gaby Chiappe. There is drama, hilarity, tragedy, and more that are weaved within and with the characters on display. Whilst elements may feel a touch over-exaggerated, there’s a moment of nostalgia mixed with a modern telling that keeps a fresh beat. As well as this, there is a particular brand of rambunctious (and embellished) woman that Scherfig is prone to directing.
Gemma Arterton, who has a heap of uniquely different roles in her old kit bag, tackles the Welsh Katherine with ease (although, why she had to be Welsh is anyone’s guess. Arterton’s natural accent would have probably worked better.) As the nouvelle screenwriter battling her ideas in a sexist and violent environment, Arterton establishes a headstrong, kind, and different on-screen heroine who rages with her opinions and writing. Despite the era change, she’s a great character to muster a near two hours with and her experiences, both delighting and dreadful, allow Arteron to layer this gung-ho woman, no matter how much slop is thrown her way.
We’re loving this new director/actor relationship with Scherfig and Sam Claflin, who ensnared us with his slimy Alistair in previous Lone outing The Riot Club. Here he plays Buckley, a pompous and maddening writer who has a plethora of character development that the talented (but unrecognisable) Claflin fleshes out. He is impossibly charming in his disconcerting manner, and Claflin makes him meaty and real. It helps that he has an abundance of chemistry with our leading star Arterton and their friendship sparks throughout the film. There’s also a very Bill Nighy turn from, well, Bill Nighy as a vain ageing actor and the feature is certainly more appealing with him there.
There are simple touches to Their Finest that make it a warming, yet sobering, war time outing. Whilst the movie has classic comedy moments and romance at the core of it, there is style, death, destruction, and depression laying its foundation. It’s within this nature that Their Finest flourishes: Making you laugh at a Bill Nighy quip then cry at the losses suffered during WW2. Though the film deals with the spectacle of Hollywood, in the end it is the humanity and the characters which make it a rather enjoyable piece of cinema.
Their Finest succeeds in providing authenticity, optimism.
And, of course, a dog.
Their Finest is out April 21st