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THEIR FINEST

SYNOPSIS: A British film crew attempts to boost morale during World War II by making a propaganda film after the Blitzkrieg.

Review by Louise Keller:
Authenticity and optimism is the brief for a film to inspire a war-torn England in this charming and funny film from An Education's Lone Scherfig. It's a delightful film that engages from the outset although there is a disparity when it comes to the handling of the switch between romance and drama. One scene in particular towards the end gnaws at the film's magic. Nonetheless, Bill Nighy is a hoot as a hammy actor whose ego needs constant stroking while Gemma Arterton and Sam Clafin shine in their respective roles as a feisty heroine who finds her calling and a writer looking for structure and meaning.

It is these central performances that keep the film alive. Adapted from Lissa Evan's novel and set in 1940 London in the midst of bomb raids, the story begins when Arterton's Catrin Cole is recruited to the British Ministry of Information's film division to work on a film that is designed 'to make a difference'. It is up to her to write the 'slop' (film dialogue); Clafin is hidden behind owl glasses as Cartrin's writing colleague. The story is to be based on real events and once the characters have been established, we are drawn into the screenwriters' world, where it is a matter of working out how to put it all together.

Bill Nighy is a joy to watch as he provides the bulk of the comedy - he naturally fits into the mould of Ambrose Hilliard, the ego-centric actor. Watch for Helen McCrory, wonderful as Ambrose's new agent, who is every bit his match. Jeremy Irons also appears in a welcome cameo.

Essentially the film is a love triangle that plays out relatively well with apart from the aforementioned script problem. There are interesting exchanges and the development of the relationships work well. Production design is excellent, allowing us to become immersed in the era.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Although set in 1940, Their Finest does a pretty ever-relevant job of showing how all movie sausages are made, in a combo of fun, drama and romance. Writing to a recipe for wartime propaganda and morale boosting is not much different from the days when writing for Hollywood studios had writers bunkered down writing scripts to a commercial recipe. The use of scene cards pinned on the wall in front of the writing pool is a classic example of the writing trade, or craft; the writing art happens in the head.

The story is simple enough, it's the characters that draw us in, make us care, generate the laughs, tease out the tears ... and the characters are the creatures of the actors, using the tools of the screenplay.

The inexhaustibly talented Gemma Arterton as the Welsh lass Catrin is the heart of the film, whose writing skills are quickly harnessed by the communications arm of the British war machine, thanks to the man who first notices her talents, Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin, excellent). It's her story, not just as the script writer but as the woman whose heart is broken - twice.

The talent pool runs deep, with Bill Nighy as the self assured actor Ambrose Hilliard, Rachel Stirling as the subtly lesbian Rachael in the war office, Richard E. Grant as Roger Swain, the project manager, Jeremy Irons (underused) as Secretary of War, Eddie Marsan (underused) as Hilliard's agent Sammy, and Helen McCrory as his wife who takes over the agenting in a very personal way ...

The humour is British - low key but often barbed - and the filmmakers manage to control the tone of the film through the many elements of the human experience from love and art to death and broken relationships.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

THEIR FINEST (M)
(UK, 2016)

CAST: Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy, Jack Huston, Paul Ritter, Rachael Stirling, Richard E. Grant, Henry Goodman, Jake Lacy, Jeremy Irons, Eddie Marsan, Helen McCory, Hubert Burton, Claudie Jessie, Stephanie Hyam, Michael Marcus, Gordon Brown, Julia Lewis

PRODUCER: Foinola Dwyer, Amanda Posey, Stephen Woolley

DIRECTOR: Lone Scherfig

SCRIPT: Gaby Chiappe (novel by Lissa Evans)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Sebastian Blenkov

EDITOR: Lucia Zucchetti

MUSIC: Rachel Portman

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Alice Normington

RUNNING TIME: 117 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Transmission

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 13, 2017







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