With a title like Their Finest, the expectations are high, and we’re glad to say that for the most part this highly meta film lives up to its lofty title.
The film’s centerpiece is Mrs. Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton), a young copywriter whose work garners the notice of screenwriter Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin), who invites her to interview for a job with the Ministry of Information helping to portray the “female perspective” through women’s dialogue for their wartime films. Though initially entering the process a bit naïve, Cole is thrown right into the waters, tasked with investigating the story of twin sisters who helped save soldiers at the battle of Dunkirk with their boat. Knowing that the Ministry was looking for an uplifting yet authentic story and needing the money after her artist beau Ellis (Jack Huston) fell on hard times financially, she allows the truth to be stretched a bit in order to get a seat at the table.
At home, Ellis is struggling to make ends meet, suggesting that even though Catrin has landed a job to help pay the bills that she leave London while the city is under attack from air raids. But she’ll have noneof it and insists on staying. It’s not long before Ellis finally catches a break with a job away from London, but Catrin insists on staying to continue working on the film and the relationship is put to the test.
In the office, Buckley serves as a mentor of sorts, but more often than not finds himself at odds with Catrin’s point of view. Over time, Buckley begins to respect Catrin’s work and together they work to craft what they hope will be one of the finest works to date. But there are plenty of landmines to navigate on set. There’s Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy), the once famous star coming to terms with his age and no longer being the leading man. There’s a last minute suggestion from the Minister of Defense that they need to include an American hero in order to move America to get involved with the war in Europe, and when a real life military golden boy (Jake Lacy) gets cast, there’s some comedic moments with trying to work him into the film. Add in the fact that as the whole shoot is going on, there is the threat of the real life military attacks going on around them, thus raising the stakes of the work they’re trying to accomplish.
Their Finest does a fine job of tackling many of the issues at once – the war in the skies and on land, the war of women fighting for recognition as equals and the war of trying to get a film made with plenty of interference. It’s not long before all these battles start to overlap and the battles in real life influencing the need to produce something uplifting. The film offers humor, drama and heroism in the midst of great strife as much behind the scenes as what is being portrayed on screen and the chemistry between Catrin and Buckley really drives the film.
The film doesn’t play out quite as you might expect it to, but it’s a triumph all the same. Their Finest is worthy of the name.