The latest adaptation by Danish director Lone Scherfig, Their Finest is set in 1940s London during the Second World War. In order to boost morale, the British Ministry hires Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) as a screenwriter to give their propaganda films a feminine touch. Her quick wit and talent doesn’t go unnoticed by her peers, including cynical screenwriter Buckley (Sam Clalfin), and the two are soon inspired to write a film around the events of Dunkirk to inspire the nation.
While WWII is regarded as a key historical point in British filmmaking, a woman’s role in the country grew in significance and Their Finest highlights this in a subtle way. Arterton’s quietly determined Catrin is portrayed as a smart, committed and compassionate character whose wish to support herself and her artist partner Ellis (Jack Huston) shows that she believes in her capabilities, defying the traditional role of housewife and factory worker. However, the story struggles to fully develop as her role and employment remain dependent on the men around her, effectively stunting her inspiration as a female protagonist. In addition, the plot is predictable in places and there are certain promising subplots that end all too abruptly, so there is a sense of dissatisfaction that stems from a lack of emotional development.
Their Finest‘s strength is in its casting. Arteron delivers a graceful, humble performance while Claflin portrays Buckley with a sense of confidence that allows him to be funny and emotional without being completely heartless. Thanks to the delightful Bill Nighy as the grumpy veteran actor Ambrose Hilliard and the unexpectedly hilarious Jake Lacy as inexperienced actor Carl Lundbeck, the film delivers surprise laughs and retains a lightheartedness that will appeal to a wide range of viewers.
While the plot lacks emotional depth, screenwriter Gaby Chiappe’s mild dialogue and Scherfig’s dainty direction focus on its inspirational elements, specifically Catrin’s journey, to build a sweet, heart-warming period drama that reminds viewers that there is hope during hard times.
Overall, Their Finest has the ‘feel-good’ factor and solid performances, but its subtlety prevents it from being a memorable crowd-pleaser.
Their Finest will by in UK cinemas on 21st April.
Director: Lone Scherfig, Gaby Chiappe (scr.)
Stars: Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy, Jack Huston, Jake Lacy
Runtime: 117 minutes