Their Finest Hour and a Half!
Finest is a very British film filled with the very
British wartime sensibilities of stiff upper lip, soldiering on regardless and
a healthy dislike of the Yanks. Hardly surprising when you consider it is
directed by Lone Sherfig, the woman behind previous period Brit-flick, An Education, as well as the terribly
British One Day.
As with so many period pieces from recent
history, Their Finest tells us a story behind the story that most people will
not know. We’re all aware of the heroics of the soldiers on the front lines,
but few of us know about the heroes at home, who worked hard in their own way
for the war effort.
Former Bond-girl Gemma Arteton’s Catrin
Cole is one such hero, or more specifically, heroine, who wrote the scripts for
propaganda films during the blitz. Working alongside Me Before You star Sam
Calfin’s initially misogynist Tom Buckley, and Bill Nighy’s wonderful washed up
actor, Ambrose Hilliard, she aims to take the ‘slop’ of traditional female
roles to a new level that really shows their contribution to the war.
Based on the real life character of Diana
Morgan, who wrote for Ealing Studios, and adapted from Lissa Evans’ novel Their
Finest Hour and a Half, this is certainly a heart warming, feel good romantic
comedy. Yet at the same time, it pulls no punches when it comes to depicting how
harrowing life was in London during the Blitz. In one scene Catrin tries to ‘keep
calm and carry on’, as bombs fall around her, only to get caught up in the
carnage. Seeing her left physically sick from what she sees is a poignant
reminder that there is nothing romantic or comic about war.
The cast are charming and play the repressed
manners and etiquette of the time well. No one blinks an eye when Catrin is
told that they ‘obviously can’t pay her the same as the chaps’. However, it has
to be said that the screen lights up every time Bill Nighy appears, and you do end
up wanting him to be on that screen a great deal more. He is truly on home turf
here as an inveterate luvvie, and he is clearly loving every minute of it. Although
by his own confession he was a little uncomfortable with the casting: “They
were looking for someone to play a chronically self-absorbed actor in his
declining years,” he says. “The fact that they thought of me is easier to
process some mornings than others”.
While it may not have the star studded cast,
or the intense drama of other recent story-behind-the-story films, such as the
Oscar nominated Hidden Figures, Their Finest is still a tale that needs to be
told of lives that need to be celebrated.