“Their Finest” is a romantic comedy set in Great Britain during the Blitz. It was directed by Lone Scherfig and is based on Their Finest Hour and a Half by Lissa Evans. It is a movie about the making of a movie. The movie is about Dunkirk. It gives an inside view of the making of a propaganda film by the British Ministry of Information.
Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) gets a job writing scripts for short informational films, at substantially less pay than the men. She will handle “slob” which refers to women’s dialogue. She is sent to research a story about two women who went to Dunkirk in their boat to participate in the evacuation. It sounds like a great morale-boosting film, but it turns out the story is too good to be true. Catrin lies about the veracity of the tale because she does not want to get fired. Her writing partners Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin) and Raymond Parfitt (Paul Ritter) decide to “enhance” the story and the trio convinces their superiors they can make the movie as a “based on a true story”. Complications arise as Catrin’s unemployed husband gets a job and insists she quit hers. She refuses and this opens up the opportunity for the requisite romance with the chauvinistic Buckley. Production begins on the movie which the Ministry hopes will sway American audiences into supporting Britain. For this reason they will need an American character. They insert a flyboy played by real American RAF ace Carl Lundbeck (Jake Lacy). Lundbeck turns out to be a terrible actor which provides some of the comedy. Meanwhile there is tension on the set because the main star is a pompous has-been named Hilliard (Bill Nighy). He does not care that there is a war going on and will provide the redemption arc.
“Their Finest” is a nice little movie. It is rare to find a modern romantic comedy set in WWII. I’m not including unintended comedies like “Shining Through”. Since it is modern, it has a feminist theme to it that is a bit anachronistic. However, the Catrin character is based on Diana Morgan. Morgan was a screenwriter and playwright in London in the 1940s. She went mostly uncredited in the films she helped write, but was recognized for “Went the Day Well?” (1942). Even though its modern, it does not break any new ground in the romantic comedy tropes. The Catrin and Buckley characters are destined to get together, but not until there is a bump in the road. The characters are all clichés, but hey, it’s a rom-com so what do you expect? The cool aspect to the plot is the movie-making subplot. It’s played for laughs, but it is not far from the actual making of a low budget propaganda piece. The actors have fun playing actors and Nighy is great. The whole cast is fine. They are helped by good dialogue, plus its fun watching the crafting of dialogue by Catrin. Buckley describes movies as “real life with the boring bits cut out”.
“Their Finest” is a good choice if you want a light-weight movie that blends comedy and romance with great period touches. A male war movie fan can watch it with his significant other and get brownie points. You can pretend it’s a chore, but you’ll probably enjoy it, too.
GRADE = B+