Starring: Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy
Director: Lone Scherfig
Running Time: 117 mins
Their Finest is a British film about a team of scriptwriters who are tasked with producing a morale-boosting war film at the height of the Blitz.
This is exactly the sort of thing to expect from BBC Films. An uplifting, pleasant and cutesy movie lathered in beautiful production and costume design. However, it’s also not the most riveting watch ever, and for every moment that it impresses with its pleasant nature, it falls down due to a serious lack of characterisation across the board.
However, let’s start with what really makes this film work, and that’s just how pleasant it is. Despite being set at the height of the Blitz, and with a distinctly darker visual style than you’d expect, there’s something about the period drama nature of Their Finest, mixed with its high-spirited and morale-boosting heart, that makes it the perfect sort of film to get you smiling.
The production and costume design in this film are absolutely faultless, and perfectly set you in 1940s England. What’s more is that all of the performances capture the spirit of the time, effectively combining some of the heavier drama and loss felt by the British people during the Blitz with the legendarily optimistic bulldog spirit that’s such a hallmark of the period.
When it comes to the plot itself, there are two very distinct sides of varying successes. On the one hand, the story about the production of a propaganda war film to lift the spirits of the British people when it seemed like Hitler was only a few days away, was really enjoyable to watch.
It’s a bit of a shame that this isn’t a true story, but nonetheless, it’s an interesting and entertaining combination of tales of the bravery during the Dunkirk evacuation and the war as a whole, as well as the importance of the film industry at the time. What’s more is that it ties in very nicely with the wider context of the Second World War, looking not only at Britain’s resistance to the Nazis, but also bringing in a clever story line to introduce the USA into the war, which I thought was fascinating to see.
So, this film should satisfy film history fans and military history fans alike, but it won’t thrill anyone, and that’s because it really falls down when it comes to the all-important characters.
As nice and pleasant (and even often intriguing) as this film is to watch, it’s never as engaging as it can be simply because the characters are so thin. Gemma Arterton’s nice performance doesn’t really have anywhere to go, whilst her character’s relationship with Sam Claflin, a point of the story that the film places far too much focus on, just isn’t interesting enough.
Their Finest works well as the sort of film to sit down and watch on a Sunday afternoon with a cup of tea, and its historical setting works fantastically throughout. However, it’s never a particularly engaging film simply because the characters aren’t well-developed enough, appearing as little more than cutesy stereotypes of wartime London, and it means that whenever the film takes it focus to a more personal story, particularly in the final act, it just isn’t enough to keep you properly engaged, and that’s why I’m giving this film a 6.9 overall.