At The Movies
Their Finest ★★★
Director: Lone Scherfig
Cast: Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy, Jack Huston, Paul Ritter, Richard E. Grant
World War 2 marked a significant change in the role of women in Britain. With so many men leaving their jobs to join the army, women found themselves for the first time being given jobs that had, until then, been the realm strictly of men. This is the subtext behind “Their Finest”, the latest film from Danish director Lone Scherfig.
Gemma Arterton plays Catrin Cole, a Welsh lass in London working as a copywriter while supporting her moody (and penniless) artist boyfriend. She comes to the attention of the Ministry of Information who recruit her to write the “slop” – aka the woman’s dialogue – in their propaganda films.
After hearing about a story of two sisters who apparently stole their father’s fishing boat and sailed to France to help rescue the troops at Dunkirk, she sets about convincing the powers that be it would be perfect fodder for their next movie to inspire a nation currently under the cosh from Hitler and his cronies. After getting the green light, she is teamed up with scriptwriter Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin), and together they set about making the Gone With the Wind of wartime propaganda movies.
This is where the main plot of the film kicks in – with the two of them dealing with constant meddling from the Ministry, a general lack of respect for a woman in the workplace and the little fact that the story they are retelling is mostly made up.
There are also some hilarious moments featuring washed up old luvvie Ambrose Hilliard (played wonderfully by Bill Nighy), and an American pilot (Jake Lacy) who can’t act to save his life and is only put in the film to try and convince the USA to join the war.
To top it all off, they are doing this while they are both fighting an undeniable attraction to each other. This leads me to my one and only problem with this movie – at times it can’t decide whether it wants to be a historical comedy drama or a period rom-com and as a result, it sways uneasily between both.
The film is at it’s best when it’s simply telling the story of a group of filmmakers attempting to make a profound propaganda film on a shoestring budget. Somehow the romantic subplot seems slightly forced – this is compounded with a couple of major plot twists towards the end of the movie that feel like they were tacked on at the last minute and completely throw the film off balance.
One of the movie’s key themes is the blatant sexism prevalent in the 1940s. It’s ironic that the filmmakers felt they needed to shoehorn in a “will they, won’t they” love story rather for the female protagonist rather than focus on the main issue of a woman attempting to make it in a male-dominated industry.
That, however, is just a little bit of a moan – overall this is an entertaining film and definitely worth the price of admission!