Their Finest
dir Lone Scherfig
scr Gaby Chiappe
prd Stephen Woolley, Amanda Posey, Finola Dwyer
with Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy, Jack Huston, Jake Lacy, Paul Ritter, Rachael Stirling, Helen McCrory, Eddie Marsan, Richard E Grant, Henry Goodman, Jeremy Irons
release US 24.Mar.17, UK 21.Apr.17
16/UK BBC 1h57
Their Finest
Writers on the set: Claflin and Arterton

nighy huston lacy
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Their Finest Packed with detailed characters and clever plot points, this engaging period film pulls us right into the middle of the events as they unfold. It's also a story about moviemaking in a time and place that adds a number of intriguing wrinkles, both humorous and sobering. Danish director Lone Scherfig has created another British gem to stand alongside An Education.

In 1940 London, Catrin (Arterton) applies for a secretarial job and is surprised to find herself writing scripts for the Ministry of Information's film unit alongside screenwriters Buckley and Parfitt (Claflin and Ritter). When she stumbles across a true story about twin women who participated in the Dunkirk boatlift, the project becomes a feature, and the team is pressured to accommodate the wishes of American allies, including adding a US soldier (Lacy) into the cast. Meanwhile, veteran star Ambrose (Nighy) is a bit miffed to be playing the drunken uncle rather than the hero.

The film looks terrific, with a superb sense of the setting. The script cleverly mixes suspense and intrigue with both drama and comedy, including plenty of details that bring these people to life and give the actors a lot to work with. Arterton is excellent in the central role, effortlessly balancing the lighter and darker moments as Catrin embarks on this new adventure while grappling with an artist husband (Huston) who doesn't like the fact that she earns more than he does.

Layers of story detail allows the character interaction to continually surprise the audience. Gently gurgling banter between Catrin and Buckley hints at a rom-com subplot, but never takes the predictable path. And both Arterton and Claflin deliver lively, layered performances. Nighy is essentially doing his usual thing, masterfully playing with his dialog to pull focus from his costars. But then, the supporting cast is packed with expert scene-stealers, including the superb McCrory and Marsan as Ambrose's brother-sister agents.

Director Scherfig and writer Chiappe underscore each moment with subtext, making pointed and also remarkably subtle comments on the role of women at the time, and how the war created new possibilities for work and satisfaction. This gives the story a proper thematic kick that adds to the joys of the plot itself. This is a film made by and about women that quietly has a lot to say both about where we came from and where we're headed. That it's also a lot of fun is a bonus.

cert 12 themes, language, violence, sexuality 11.Jan.17

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