During World War Two, Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) is recruited by the Ministry of Information to co-write an “authentic and optimistic” feature film in order to keep up British support for the war. Catrin soon discovers two twin sisters who took a boat in order to rescue soldiers from Dunkirk and makes it her mission to properly tell their story.
This is Gemma Arterton’s film through and through and she’s most definitely the star of the show; even though it took me some time to get used to her Welsh accent, her character quickly comes into focus and her Catrin is charming, chipper and she soon shows her warmth and passion for moviemaking, finding something of a family with the film’s cast and crew. Catrin is bright and intelligent and is clearly the foundation of the film within the film, essentially doing all of the writing and pushing hard for the film’s female characters to be heroic and to have their story told. She often gets to put a lot of the male characters in their place as she develops excellently throughout the film – starting off as something of a fish out of water but gradually developing her scriptwriting passion and making something of her life. Gemma Arterton is incredibly likable throughout and she brings her strong character to life brilliantly.
In addition, Bill Nighy is also excellent (although I really wanted him to be the one with the Welsh accent, since his was the only good one in Pride) as pompous, self-important actor Ambrose Hilliard who gradually warms to Catrin and Nighy delivers more than enough laughs with subtle gestures, facial expressions and admirable comic timing. Helen McCrory also manages to steal a few scenes as Ambrose’s agent Sophie Smith and Sam Clafin is also highly charismatic as Catrin’s fellow screenwriter Tom Buckley, even though his character isn’t all that interesting and primarily serves as the love interest.
Plus, there’s a totally unexpected cameo appearance from Jeremy Irons.
Adapted from Lissa Evans’ book of (almost) the same name, the story of Their Finest is very interesting, original and has definite reason to exist on screen. Its exploration of the Ministry of Information’s motivations for commissioning their propaganda film is illuminating and it’s interesting to witness all the pressure that they got from the American audiences and so forth, with the demand of an American character to be put into the story. The entire process of how the film comes together, coming up with the basic storyline and having to deal with a number of problems along the way, putting out fires as they happen, is brilliantly done and is all rather informative and exciting. The film also carries a strong, but never preachy, message of female empowerment and as such, gives us plenty of credible, passionate, intelligent female characters.
Although, the film does take a certain amount of time to actually get going as it initially struggles to transition into the “meat” of the story, spending a certain amount of time on Catrin’s relationship with her “husband”, all of which, while necessary I guess, doesn’t really amount to much and isn’t as exciting as the moviemaking element of the feature. There’s also a considerable lull in the third act where all Catrin seems to be doing is pining after Sam Clafin; the film faces the danger of outstaying its welcome and I started to wish that it would wrap up promptly. Fortunately though, it all wraps up effectively with a final few scenes that are full of genuine emotion and heart.
Elsewhere, there’s genuine and affectionate humour in abundance, it is shot competently and Rachel Portman’s grandiose score is a suitable accompaniment.
And to reiterate: a Welsh accented Gemma Arterton. Can’t argue with that.