Their Finest – Movie Review
Rating: B (Good)
Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Elevation Pictures
The British have a different perspective of World War II, as while they weren’t affected in the same way Continental Europe was, the threat of Nazism was still nearby. The focus of Their Finest is primarily on the morale boosting done during the war and while it follows the expected story patterns, there is nonetheless an emotional attachment to the people affected. Even as the filmmakers seeking to bring patriotism to the British public are sitting in offices and typing up scripts, bombs continue to fly overhead. Director Lone Scherfig and screenwriter Gaby Chiappe, adapting Lissa Evans’s novel, craft the proper tone with Their Finest in addition to showing the power of good filmmaking.
Scherfig immediately manages to get a handle of the time period and need for morale during the Second World War. Even though Their Finest is largely fictional, the characters we follow feel like genuine members of the British film industry at the time. The chemistry between Gemma Arterton’s screenwriter Catrin and Sam Claflin’s head script writer Tom is sweet and it makes their inevitable romance one that feels earned. Their conflicts and closeness showcase the collaboration that can happen between creative types and how the melding of good ideas can turn into great ones. Bill Nighy and Jake Lacy are scene-stealers as a veteran actor and a soldier forced into the wartime film, respectively.
The best scenes in Their Finest are the ones showing the filmmakers at work. Considerable research appears to have been made on how the British film industry went about creating morale-boosting pictures during the war. The humour is not too in-jokey and throughout it all is a crew bonding and finding common ground in wanting to bring relief and inspiration to the British people. However, the script always remembers that Nazi storm cloud looming above and how cinema existed as a necessary relief for both the creative types making them and those who paid to see them.
Their Finest does tend to lag during the scenes of Catrin in her home life. Her painter significant other merely exists as a plot device and a necessity to keep her at a distance from Tom. Nonetheless, Scherfig delivers on the home stretch. Even as we feel her pulling the emotional strings behind the camera and Rachel Portman’s score swells, the audience reaction does feel earned. There is an authenticity when seeing the finished movie the filmmakers within the film have put together. One can imagine this same picture being released in the early 1940s, alongside the likes of Mrs. Miniver and In Which We Serve.
The troubles of war never truly disappear and that’s why inspirational films are needed to allow the populace to know they can triumph. Their Finest is itself an inspirational film, a charming and likeable piece of cinema and a fitting tribute to the British film industry. The actors all deliver and Lone Scherfig guides them and her crew to create the proper response from the audience. Their Finest does its job suitably enough and probably would not be out of place among the films the United Kingdom made during the Second World War to encourage the population. It is a needed film for the Great Britain that seems so divided these days.