Directed by Lone Scherfig
From 21st April 2017
Reviewed by Colin Serjent
Feature films relating to nostalgic re-enactments of events that occurred during WWII are not normally to my taste, but I made an exception with Their Finest because it concerned the making of propaganda films by the Film Unit of the Ministry Of Information in the UK at that time.
But it proved to be, apologies William!, much ado about very little, and one-dimensional in scope.
Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton), utilising a dodgy Welsh accent, is recruited from Port Talbot to join a group of screen writers, and thus became the only female among them, was given the job of helping to create morale-boosting films on behalf of the British war effort during the London Blitz in 1940/41.
The main reason she was chosen was to to pen ‘slop’ (‘girl talk’), otherwise known as womens dialogue. to include in films as a means to boost interest by females in the productions the team created.
However, there was no evidence of the inclusion of ‘slop’ being used in films made after the appointment of Cole.
Also not conveyed enough in Their Finest was the fact that Cole’s husband Ellis (Jack Huston), an artist painter, was a radical politico, disowned by his family, who was injured serving in the Spanish Civil War.
For some unbeknown reason Danish director Lone Scherfig gave the lightweight figure Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy), a fairly well-known actor prior to WWII, too much screen time.
His character added little to what passed as drama, except to convey what a vain person he was. Wow, what a surprise, a vain actor playing a vain actor!
Comments have been made about ‘the exceptional quality’ of the films produced by the Film Department at that time, with audiences clamouring for movies that reflected the realities of wartime life. Up to thirty million people in Britain attended cinemas every week.
But the finished product shown towards the end of Their Finest – a story about the rescue by civilians in boats of stranded British soldiers at Dunkirk – was lame and badly acted.
Filmed on the coast of Devon the most ingenious shot was of hoards of British troops on Dunkirk beach painted on to glass, to give the impression of actually being there.
Their Finest, adapted from the oddly titled book by Lissa Evans, Their Finest Hour And A Half, was meant not to be a lampoon of wartime British cinema. But this is what it unintentionally ended up being!