Looking Back At THEIR FINEST - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad

Looking Back At THEIR FINEST

Matthew Kresal celebrates V.E. Day honoring Their Finest...

There have been a lot of films made about the Second World War over the years. Most of them have been what would be in the category of war movies exploring battles and generals, like 2019's Midway, Sink the Bismarck, or the 1970 Oscar-winning Patton. Occasionally, however, some films offer a different perspective, exploring in fiction portions of the war, especially on the home fronts, that doesn't receive much attention. Their Finest, based on a novel by Lissa Evans, looks at the creative side of the home front and what it took to make a cinematic effort in a nation under literal siege.

First and foremost, this is a film about a film. Specifically, it's a fictional film about a fictional film. Something which, in itself, is rather interesting since it is also looking back on a very particular era in the history of British cinema, one which viewers are a witness to through the eyes of a young Welsh woman named Catrin Cole. This secretary turned inadvertent screenwriter becomes our guide as she finds herself involved in the creation of a film about two sisters and the Dunkirk evacuation as the Blitz rains down on the streets of London. One which might help to inspire an already war-weary people and which, as the Ministry ends up demanding, have an American in it to boot. It's an interesting way of looking not just at an interesting moment in British film history but also an intriguing moment of British history in general, something which works in the film's favor.

It's also a film blessed with a first-rate cast. Leading it is Gemma Arterton as the Welsh secretary turned scriptwriter, a role that highlights her charm and inner-strength, even while allowing her moments of self-doubt and vulnerability. Sam Claflin plays Tom Buckley, her cynical screenwriting colleague, and the chemistry between the pair is palpable, to say the least. Rounding off the lead cast is a scene-stealing Bill Nighy as fading matinee idol Ambrose Hilliard. The supporting cast, likewise, is well cast from Richard E Grant as a Ministry of Information bureaucrat, Rachel Stirling as a Ministry executive overseeing the film, Jake Lacey as the token American, and even a cameo by Jeremy Irons. It's a first-rate cast and one that director Lone Scherfig puts to fine use.

Their Finest also features some superb production values. Wartime Britain, from Blitz London to the coastal Devon, are recreated in their 1940s glory through a combination of location filming and the production design of Alice Normington. The costume work by Charlotte Walter likewise helps to sell the recreation of the period. More than recreating Britain at war, they also recreate a British film industry dealing with it, with viewers seeing filmmaking circa 1940 recreated, including a humorous scene where Nighy's Hilliard crashes a matte shot in progress. There's also a warmth to be found in the cinematography of Sebastian Blenkov and especially from the score by Rachel Portman, a warmth which finds itself in stark contrast when the film finds itself going into gray London days or moments of proverbial (if not literal) darkness. True, some of the London scenes seem oddly devoid of people, revealing perhaps limits of the budget to recreate the period, but when things work, they work.

What stands out about Their Finest, as much as its cast and how well made it is, is its tone. In some ways, this is something of a wartime romantic comedy, one that focuses on Arterton's Cole. In other ways, it's a dramedy about the making of a movie in extraordinary times. Certainly, the warmth in its performances and those aspects I mentioned above, offer up evidence for that. To say that was all the film had would do it a disservice. Indeed, some of the twists along the way, and a major one toward the end, offer up proof that what screenwriter Gaby Chiappe and director Scherfig had in mind wasn't to produce a predictable genre piece. Instead, the movie becomes an exploration, on the national and personal level, of trying to make art in dark times, in finding hope when none seems apparent. It's something that helps elevate the finished film even more because, to its credit, it has something to say.

If you're looking for an interesting way of looking at the Second World War homefront, Their Finest is the movie for you. If you're looking for one about filmmaking in days gone by, then Their Finest is likewise a movie for you. If you're looking for hope in dark times, and frankly who isn't these days, then it is also a movie for you. Because if anything will make you laugh and feel better for a couple of hours, it'll be sitting down for two hours and watching the cast and filmmakers put on Their Finest for you.

Matthew lives in North Alabama where he's a nerd, doesn't have a southern accent and isn't a Republican. He's a host of both the Big Finish centric Stories From The Vortex podcast and the 20mb Doctor Who Podcast. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, amongst other places. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post Top Ad