Sunday 7 May 2017

Film Review: Their Finest

Set against the backdrop of the Blitz, Their Finest is a touching British dramedy that dishes out giggles and sniffles in equal measure.

Gemma Arterton plays Catrin Cole, a former secretary who is recruited as a scriptwriter for a British government agency that makes propaganda films during the Blitz. Her role is simple; the existing writers, Buckley (Sam Claflin) and Raymond (Paul Ritter), need a woman to write authentic dialogue for female characters, or 'the slop' as they call it.

As their film starts to take shape, a range of factors and inconveniences start to disrupt production, much to the chagrin of Buckley and the production's self-proclaimed star Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy).

It feels like there is a rather easy joke in here about how Their Finest is actually from from it, but not only would that sentiment be harsh, it would also be a touch inaccurate. Sure, this film isn't the finest British wartime film you've ever seen, but neither is it a total misfire that isn't worthy of your time and attention.

First of all, the premise is clever and interesting. Shining a light on the work that went into lifting the spirits of everyone back home is a refreshing change of pace for a war film, especially when a women (and one as delightful as Arterton, might I add) is placed at the fore.

In fact, that's an area where Their Finest can be wholeheartedly commended. Written, directed and edited by and featuring production design, music, set design and casting by women, Their Finest doesn't just put women to the front for an easy gag about outdated workplace roles; it wants to walk the walk as well as talk the talk. It's an honest and heartfelt appraisal of the efforts of women on the home front, not just a whimsical jaunt about moviemaking.

Claflin plays a wonderfully grumpy scriptwriter who detests almost everything and everyone around him. A lot of the film concerns itself with Catrin melting away his icy facade and unearthing the sweetness inside. Of course, it helps enormously that Arterton and Claflin share an effective onscreen rapport that makes their back-and-forth repartee so delightful.

At one point, Billy Nighy's character exclaims that their movie will have audiences "weeping in the aisles", and Their Finest does go someway to achieving that itself. It's an emotional film that isn't afraid to tug at the heartstrings - even if that means it's a bit of a mess tonally at times. Is it a love story or a silly romp about an ageing down-on-his-luck actor? These two aspects tug in different directions and one (Nighy's part, as great as it is) should have been cut back to make way for the real story, which is that of Catrin and Buckley.

The Verdict: 7.5/10

Their Finest is an entertaining look at life on the home front that is told in the most authentically British way possible; sweet, spirited but definitely not showy.

Their Finest is in cinemas across Australia now.

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