“He is an actor. Unless you have reviewed him, had intercourse with him, or done both simultaneously, he won’t remember you.” – Phyl Moore, Their Finest (2017).
Finding this film in a charity shop at three DVDs for £1 was probably not a good start. I mean, this film came out this year and it’s already wound it’s way into bargain bins across the country. Therefore, my expectations were really not that high for this film. I must admit, this film did surprise me, but really it just didn’t do enough.
In 1940, a married woman, Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) is asked to produce a propaganda piece to fix dwindling morale in the United Kingdom. Her assignment leads her to two twins who aided soldiers in the retreat of Dunkirk. After learning of their story, she decides this is the one she wants to produce into a major film production. From there she meets Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin) and soon a romance between the two blossoms. The supporting cast includes Bill Nighy, Richard E. Grant, Paul Ritter, Jeremy Irons and Eddie Marsan.
As far as performances go they are pretty solid throughout this film. The only problem is that the plot really doesn’t compliment them in any way. The first hour or so of the film does have some very interesting plot points to it. The film revolves around the creation of a British propaganda film to boost morale. It’s based off of part of a true story and the first hour follows the production. If the film had just ended here I would be recommending it. But no, it slogs through a second hour and attaches a needlessly dull romance plot. I’m not sure how many romantic films I’ve seen in the past week, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were in double digits at this point.
But those performances I briefly mentioned, they are in fact extremely good. As far as the cast is concerned I have to admit they are all extremely talented. I’d never watched a film starring Gemma Arterton before this and I’m pretty excited to see her future work. She’s an extremely competent lead actor and has chemistry with pretty much anyone she is featured on the screen with. Apparently she was in The Boat That Rocked (2009) but I don’t remember seeing her in that.
Regardless of that, the rest of the cast are just as good as the lead. Bill Nighy is ever charming and really brings this film above the level of mediocre. It was a genuine surprise to see Paul Ritter thrown into the mix as well, considering I’m such a big fan of Friday Night Dinner (2011 – Ongoing) this was a definite pleasure to see. He’s a genuinely good actor and he really does need some bigger and better film roles. May as well throw Jeremy Irons into this paragraph because this film throws him into one scene and that’s literally it. Honestly the amount of genuine surprises in this film just because of who shows up is great.
But that doesn’t make a film any good, because surprisingly you do need a plot. As I mentioned earlier the opening hour of the film is pretty good. Seeing the cast deal with the setbacks and the struggles of making a film is very interesting to watch. Having this develop on screen is extremely good fun. But then the film takes one of the worst turns it possibly could. For some reason it just becomes some really poor romance film. It does take away from the performance of the leads throughout. However, I will give the film credit for not following through with the romance plot and literally killing it off ten minutes before the end of the film. That takes balls.
As far as the cinematography of the film goes there isn’t really anything special throughout. I would say that the film embodies the look of World War 2 rather well. We never see any conflict, we do see a few explosions in the early part of the film. But other than those few scenes we never see any real conflict. There is no moving imagery and to be honest I do appreciate that to a certain degree. By avoiding the obviously emotional moments it can focus more on building on the chemistry of its cast. So yes, the cinematography captures the time period well.
Honestly it even shows how difficult the process of screenwriting is and I do appreciate what the film is trying to do. As far as the direction and general cinematography goes, this film does hold together quite well. The cast compliment the camera work and as far as my opinion goes I would say this is one of the best parts of the film. That’s not saying much though considering it isn’t the main focus of the film. Yes, it’s noticeable throughout, but my attention was never fixated on it.
Now I wrote down in my notes that if this film turned into a generic romance plot I would fling the disc into fucking orbit. This film does in fact become a romance film. So, did I throw my disc away? Of course I didn’t. If anything it was upsetting that this film turns into something so generic when it started off so strong. Honestly it was just such a cliche by the end of it I felt like I’d watched this film before. Nothing new is branched out on and it brings nothing new to the table in regard to the genre it is part of.
But regardless of that, Their Finest is a fairly solid film about propaganda films in World War 2. If anything it does a great job of highlighting the difficulties of the time period. Alongside this are some truly charming performances from Arterton, Ritter and Nighy, along with some nice cinematography. If it weren’t for such a wild U-Turn in regard to the plot and some fairly mediocre dialogue at times, then this film would have been a sure fire hit for me.