A young Englishman plots revenge against his late cousin's mysterious, beautiful wife, believing her responsible for his death. But his feelings become complicated as he finds himself falling under the beguiling spell of her charms.
A German soldier tries to determine if the Dutch resistance has planted a spy to infiltrate the home of Kaiser Wilhelm in Holland during the onset of World War II, but falls for a young Jewish Dutch woman during his investigation.
During the London Blitz of World War II, Catrin Cole is recruited by the British Ministry of Information to write scripts for propaganda films that the public will actually watch without scoffing. In the line of her new duties, Cole investigates the story of two young women who supposedly piloted a boat in the Dunkirk Evacuation. Although it proved a complete misapprehension, the story becomes the basis for a fictional film with some possible appeal. As Cole labors to write the script with her new colleagues such as Tom Buckley, veteran actor Ambrose Hilliard must accept that his days as a leading man are over as he joins the project. Together, this disparate trio must struggle against such complications such as sexism against Cole, jealous relatives, and political interference in their artistic decisions even as London endures the bombs of the enemy. In the face of those challenges, they share a hope to contribute something meaningful in this time of war and in their own lives. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (firstname.lastname@example.org)
A delightfully nostalgic period drama of movie-making and romance during the London Blitz.
Their Finest (2016) is one of several recent films that remediate
women's conspicuous absence from war history. It stands tall in the war
film genre, as well as in period drama and feminist film. With
beautiful cinematography, it nostalgically evokes the tensions and
deprivations of London in 1940. At the same time, it provides an
instructive insight into the making of a war propaganda movie in the
early days of film history.
The two-part plot line is based on the experiences of young Welshwoman
Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) who unexpectedly lands a movie
scriptwriting job in the British Ministry of Information. The first
half of Their Finest is about the planning of a movie for boosting
morale and support for the war; the second is its actual filming. The
thread of continuity is Catrin's relationships; first with her
war-damaged artist lover Ellis Cole (Jack Huston) and then her senior
scriptwriter Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin). Catrin has been hired to write
"the slops", a term used to describe women's interests and views. In
wartime, things change unexpectedly and the movie shifts from an
emphasis on women, to a general rallying call to the nation, and then
to an appeal to America to join the war. The casting of stars shifts
from heroines to a past-his-prime actor Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy)
to an American fighter pilot who turns out to have appalling acting
skills. By the end of Their Finest, we are watching the finished movie
being screened in public having witnessed how it was made and the
effect it has on the people involved.
The making of a war movie within a war film is an original and clever
cinematic construction. The storyboarding, casting, and filming of the
movie provide self-reflexive insights into movie-making itself. This is
a multi-genre film, combining war and filmmaking history, period drama
and romance, but it's inaccurate to call it a comedy. Most of the
humour comes from Bill Nighy's portrayal of the pompous British
artistic classes and his fading light as an actor. In an otherwise
well-directed film, Nighy often overshadows its star, Gemma Arterton,
who is the film's beating heart and champion for women. Nighy has that
rare ability to fill any space into which he walks, but this means that
the film's excellent cast shine only when he is off screen.
There are many reasons for liking this film, including its originality,
acting and filming. It poignantly captures the fragility of life in the
London Blitz with detailed attention to nostalgic sets, costumes, and
mannerisms of an era. The colour palette's de-saturated tonality
reflects the sombre mood of the nation and the narrative covers a lot
of ground. It is ironic, however, that a film dedicated to recognising
the role of women in history should be so under the comedic influence
of a veteran male actor. Despite its efforts to be otherwise, this will
be remembered as a Bill Nighy film. For many, that's not a bad thing.
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