British cinema may not have risen to the dizzy heights of Hollywood, but for our size were proud of what we’ve done or are we just too humble to admit? Keep calm and carry on, the British Ministry Of Information are to make things right in Lone Scherfig‘s (An Education) Their Finest. A warming nostalgic tale that celebrates the spirit of the British during World War Two and the nation’s rising film industry.
The movie takes us back to the 1940s London is now a city under siege from the constant air raids from Hitler’s Luftwaffe. Life attempts to go on, people struggle to live what they have. There were very few luxuries available during the war and one of those was the cinema. What the cinemas screened was in a dire need of a ‘woman’s touch’ or face the threat of closing the industry down as well as the cinemas.
What they did show on the big screens made a mockery of women and this was a time the war effort was needing more women involved. Step up Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) a young Welsh Women who was spotted by erratic screenwriter Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin) from the newspaper wrapped around the chips he was eating. With the backing of The Ministry, Catrin is hired but she thinks is for a secretarial job, it’s to become part of the writing team to deliver ‘slop’ (dialogue specifically for women).Before she knows it Catrin is out on location to make sure she delivers propaganda that will ‘cultivate a more convincing female angle’.
Early on we learn the new job was not going to be an easy task for Catrin. From the start, she wasn’t taken seriously, given a lower wage than her male compatriots despite already showing she was very capable of complete the task at hand. She was a very talented writer and decides to work twice as hard to show she was the best and despite her best efforts to the annoyance of her colleagues, she is sent out on location. Sent to interview twin sisters who tell her of their story of taking their father’s boat out to France only to return with rescued soldiers.
As Catrin slowly earns the respect of her colleagues and peers, she and Tom start to get even closer. Will they? or won’t they? If they do there is a third party in this now growing love triangle, Catrin’s self-centered artist husband Ellis (Jack Huston).
Gemma Arterton delivers a fine job playing Catrin, a determined, fiery, ambitious woman fuelled with so much passion for succeeding in her male-dominated workplace. We also see her naivety, vulnerability when the bombs drop and when she gets home to find her so called husband with another woman. You could say she was a proto-feminist.
The star of the movie is Bill Nighy as the egocentric aging actor Ambrose Hillard. When he first meets Catrin at the studio he mistakes her for another female fan. He’s a cheeky chappy he refuses to accept his best days is gone and sees the part of ‘Uncle Frank’ as a tad offensive. Thanks to Catrin and his agent (Helen McCrory) who talks him around to agree to take the role. Eventually, Ambrose becomes Catrin’s biggest fan and in return giving us all some much needed comic relief.
Their Finest has its flaws, however, there is enough going for it to be a solid crowd pleaser. The movie is at it’s best when the cast interacts, bicker with each other and relationships grow and you start to admire the qualities of the movie. It’s Lone Scherfig‘s most accessible movie that captures the old boys network perfectly next to the spirit of the British film industry/Ealing Studios of the time. It’s not all fun and games as we do get a glimpse into the hardship, the sacrifice, the pain and anguish many suffered. Thankfully asserting itself with enough nostalgia and escapism to leave a nice big grin on your face.
| Paul Devine
Drama, romance, comedy | UK, 2016| 12A | 21st April 2017 (UK) | Lionsgate Films | Dir.Lone Scherfig | Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy, Richard E.Grant, Jack Huston