THEIR FINEST is crowd-pleasing wartime rom-com
When you think of WWII movies, generally, the word “charming” rarely comes to mind. Hollywood has seemingly covered the gamut of wartime cinema, from the atrocities depicted in Schindler’s List to the countless stories of soldier bravery, like Saving Private Ryan or HBO’s Band of Brothers. But rare does the industry set a romantic comedy against the backdrop of WWII, until Lissa Evan’s novel, “Their Finest Hour and a Half.”
The players in Lone Scherfig’s adaption, Their Finest are Catrin Cole and Tom Buckley, portrayed by Gemma Arterton and Sam Claflin. Tom is a choleric screenwriter for the Ministry of Information. He is disinclined to hire Catrin, a hopeful advertising copywriter he believes he doesn’t need, after all, she is there simply to provide “women’s dialogue” or “the slop” according to Tom. But the Ministry desperately needs to boost public morale and Catrin might be key.
Their Finest‘s most difficult, albeit rather successful task is crafting a love story within a period of uncertainty. Erratic bombings destroy homes and families. Britain’s youngest and finest men are being sent off to war on a near-daily basis. Catrin and Tom’s eventual pitch to the Ministry, a clever combination of “optimism, authenticity, and a dog,” pits them closer together as they develop a film about the Dunkirk evacuation. The plot of their story is based on a real-life story of twin sisters stealing their father’s boat to rescue injured soldiers from the shores of Dunkirk.
Bill Nighy, as charmingly pompous as ever, plays Ambrose Hilliard, a veteran actor dissatisfied with his decline from top-billing to the drunk uncle in the film. Catrin’s astute patronage of Ambrose are some of the film’s most enjoyable scenes, although, it’s difficult to criticize any of the casting here as the entire ensemble plays off each other quite perfectly.
In the end, tragedy finally finds Catrin, as war always does. It’s a bit too cliché for my liking, but the message gets across. As does the film’s many other anecdotes about women’s treatment and the ridiculousness of filmmaking, some of which are still applicable today. It’s a charming film you’re sure to enjoy.