Early on in Lone Scherfig’s absolutely wonderful drama-romance set during wartime Britain, Gemma Arterton’s Catrin Cole (an Ebbw Vale girl come to London for her boyfriend and work) stares in wonder at the outline that she and her writing partners have come up with for a brand new propaganda film. Through Arterton’s terrific performance, through the glint in her eyes, we can feel the new writer falling completely and utterly in love with the filmmaking process – and that’s sort of the point.
Their Finest is a film about film, much like Singin’ In The Rain or the more recent Hail, Caesar!, but most importantly it is about the power of the medium and the way in which it can move and touch us on the purest and deepest of levels. And so, it’s no real surprise that, much like Catrin Cole in the above moment, I too found myself falling a little bit in love with this little gem.
Shot in Wales and based on the book by Lissa Evans, what could have quite easily turned out as nothing more than a middle of the road Brit-flick is considerably elevated by an unbelievable charming cast and surprisingly sharp screenplay.
The aforementioned Arterton is at her career best here, playing a female character full of determination and fragility at the same time. As well as being a story about one woman’s growing romance, not just with one of her writing partners but with cinema in general, it is also one of a woman finding her own way in life, finding her own calling, away from a man.
It’s an empowering feminist story, dealing with issues such as the gender pay gap that are unfortunately still as relevant today as they were in the 1940’s, but which is never overplayed to the point of unbelievability. The writing of Catrin Cole in general is remarkably human, and whilst she is a character unafraid of pushing her ideas and opinions, there’s an insecurity to her that makes her all the easier to believe in.
Arterton and the writing work in perfect harmony, and, on a personal note, the actress nails the character’s Welsh accent. Then you have Bill Nighy in the familiar role an aging star, attempting to desperately cling on to the role of the young hero. He gets a lot of the film’s most memorable scenes, charged with the task of tutoring a young American pilot in the craft of performance; a scenario which draws a number of comparisons to the “Would that it were so simple” sequence from Hail, Caesar!.
Truthfully, I think I laughed every single time that Nighy is on screen, and he comes very close to stealing the show from the film’s lead. Rounding out the leads is Sam Claflin who, whilst overshadowed by Nighy and Arterton, is still at the very best we’ve seen him in quite some time; again, playing his role with subtlety and believability that makes you invest in his relationship with Arterton.
There is a moment toward the end of the picture, in which it drifts dangerously close to becoming too melodramatic, but it otherwise works as a really lovely piece of work. The acting and writing are top notch, but in the end it’s the film’s understanding of the power of cinema that truly makes Their Finest something special. Who knew that watching an audience of people gasp and cry in the cinema, could be such a beautiful and powerful moment? Very fine indeed.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com