Friday, May 12, 2017

‘Their Finest’ Is a Touching, Pleasing, and Meaningful Movie About the Production of a Touching, Pleasing, and Meaningful Movie

Their Finest is a British war drama about a team of Ministry of Information filmmakers tasked to make a propaganda film that is based on the remarkable news story of twin sisters who sailed their father’s boat to take part in the miraculous Dunkirk evacuation.  The central character is Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton), a scriptwriter hired by the Ministry to provide the “woman’s touch” on their films.  For this project, she’s partnered with the cynical, veteran scriptwriter Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin).  As they clash wits as well as develop respect and affection for each other, they maneuver through the hassles of that particular time’s filmmaking process – like constant script revisions ordered by higher ups; handling problems with the cast, including a vain ex-matinee idol named Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy); and the constant bombings of the Germans – so that an epic movie that would successfully boost the morale of a nation at war can be made.

This is an extremely enjoyable and meaningful movie.  It has lots of things going for it without feeling too cluttered.  It’s a heartwarming and gorgeous-looking period drama.  It’s a charming romantic comedy.  It’s a fascinating and amusing look on filmmaking, seemingly suggesting that the production challenges of a morale-boosting film during World War II has little differences with the production challenges of a modern Hollywood studio movie.   It’s about weighing the value of effective storytelling against real-life facts.  It’s about a woman struggling and finding fulfillment and value in the workplace.   It’s about promoting awareness about women’s relevance to society.  It’s about accepting the reality of going past one’s prime and embracing whatever smaller contribution one can provide in the present.  It’s about celebrating cinema, of how a movie can become more than a tool for propaganda or source of escape.
Unfortunately, this is also the kind of movie that tends to go under the radar as it isn’t widely marketed and released.  But it’s definitely one of 2017 cinema’s gems.

Speaking of gems, ever since I first saw Gemma Arterton in 2013’s Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, I’ve always thought she’s quite a stunner on screen.  She’s as attractive as ever in this movie, and she delivered a performance that is as captivating as her looks.  Hope she could get more mainstream roles.

Another notable thing about Their Finest is how it made me wish I could watch the full cut of The Nancy Sterling, the movie being made in it.  Based on the snippets shown of the latter, it almost looks as beautiful and touching as the former.
To sum it up, Their Finest is funny, pleasing, sentimental, and reflective.  Gemma Arterton is a fantastic lead, and Director Lone Scherfig did a fine job in giving such a dense movie of various tones and arcs the coherence required to make it work effectively and endearingly.

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