Their Finest is an overtly tragic tale centred around Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) as she is faced with the challenges living in London during the blitz. As day passes and night looms she, like many others, is forced to take shelter underground with the hopes of resurfacing in the morning to the same world she saw the day prior writes Sebastian Briguglio.
The story takes a focus on the changing of the guard in where women stepped into male centric jobs in order to fill the gaps made after conscriptions.
It is through these circumstances that Catrin finds herself with the role of film-writer – alongside the conceited chauvinist Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin) where they are set the task of writing a film that will be both enjoyable but also one that will reinvigorate the morale of England to push on with their battle against the nazi menace.
The project soon garners the intention of a few interested parties including the Secretary of War himself – and before long they are now writing a pro English propaganda film – to better this situation the filmmakers have sought out the assistance of the self righteous veteran actor Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy) in order to land the film it’s big star for great appeal.
That’s the films plot as basic as it can be, but what the film doesn’t tell you is that at heart, it is a pure romance story. Pure in this sense being both a compliment and a disservice to the overall narrative. There is nothing new about the story told here, to the point where if you were to throw a dart into an abandoned blockbuster video store and hit any Hugh Grant film, then you would find one with the exact romantic formula located in this film.
While the film goes for a few ‘shocking’ twists, they either felt as though they had been announced hours in advance and garner no surprises or they come from so out of the blue that they lack any semblance of being earned. The film however, despite the cliche ridden screenplay, is actually quite enjoyable, but this is truly down to two things.
Visually, it is awe worthy, the way that they balance a war torn London with everyday life blended to it is truly a sight to behold. One scene in particular focuses on Catrin as she makes her way home from work one late afternoon and is nearly taken out by the bombing of a department store. Which is normally the kind of set up we see being used for over the top alien invasion stories, here however we get a grounded and masterfully played out scene where we are faced with the mortality of all of our characters and get a true look at the ‘keep calm and carry on’ mentality of England at the time.
The other saving grace here is the cast – Gemma Arterton and Sam Claflin have so much chemistry when working with one another that it almost choked the cynic in me to death. They have a particularly strong scene together towards the climax of the film where they are exchanging conversation with one another through the writing of a screenplay and for me it was easily a more emotional version of the ‘What if’ sequence from La La Land. Bill Nighy, unfortunately is mostly relegated to the role of comedic side character for the most part – however towards the end he is given a chance to shine in more dramatic fashion.
Overall I did like this film, the characters and the setting were engaging and I had a good time with it. It is just always a shame when you find yourself so invested in something but at the same time you know exactly where it is going (when you shouldn’t), this film wasn’t Titanic, but I saw it’s iceberg coming the entire time.