A British film crew attempts to boost morale during World War II by making a propaganda film after the Blitzkrieg.
ActorsStarring: Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy, Jack Huston, Helen McCrory, Eddie Marsan, Jake Lacy, Rachael Stirling, Richard E. Grant, Paul Ritter, Henry Goodman, Jeremy Irons, Hubert Burton, Claudia Jessie, Stephanie Hyam, Lily Knight, Francesca Knight, Cathy Murphy, Emma Cunniffe, Amanda Root, Patrick Gibson
“Their Finest” is a period drama/romance set in a UK government film propaganda unit during the early days of World War II. The odd title is a truncated version of “Their Finest Hour and a Half”, the Lissa Evans story on which the film was based, and which was surely a better title, neatly referencing as it does Churchill’s “Finest Hour” speech. Catrin Cole (played by Gemma Arterton) appears married to a handsome but struggling artist/painter Ellis Cole (Jack Huston), and against his wishes decides to get a job in order to shore up the couple’s frail finances. She is hired as a writer to help the established writing team, led by Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin), in particular to give more credibility to the writing of female dialogue in the assorted propaganda films that the unit churns out.
Catrin is sent to investigate a potentially stirring tale of a pair of twin sisters who take their drink father’s boat to Dunkirk to help in the rescue, and concludes that, despite some serious issues, the material may make a flagship propaganda film. This view is quickly shared by her colleagues, and the idea of the movie is sold up the line to an assortment of bumbling bureaucrats played by, amongst others, Richard E. Grant and Jeremy Irons. The making of this film within a film provides the dramatic backdrop to “Their Finest” but the story is really about Catrin, her relationship with Ellis and the initially unrequited attention she receives from Buckley.
The movie neatly portrays the struggles of the period, with the dangers of The Blitz through to the casual sexism of the era. It manages to leaven this with some genuinely funny moments. Many of these are provided by the ever-watchable Bill Nighy as vain ageing actor Ambrose Hilliard, who is lined up for a starring role in the propaganda film. The film itself is threatened when the top brass decide that they need to cast an American called Carl Lundbeck (Jake Lacy), who it turns out cannot act at all. Another dimension is provided in a neat performance by another of the film unit staff Phyl More (Rachael Stirling), a lesbian with a good line in witty dialogue and who the dashing but dense Lundbeck tries to hit on. The writing is very slick throughout, and the acting excellent. What could have been merely a worthy historical drama is brought to life by its performances and never outstays its welcome.