Their Finest

This one came up on my blind side. I saw a review and vowed to see it ASAP, and am I glad I did! We are in the world of wartime propaganda, with the the British Ministry of Information, Film Division. It's WWII and London is being steadily bombed; Whitehall needs to boost morale for the British people. Their next topic: The Miracle of Dunkirk, in which over 380,000 British, French, Belgian and Canadian troops were trapped by the German Army at the water's edge but evacuated by English fishing boats skippered by civilian fishermen. Plus, the War Office wants more authentic "women's voices" for the next script and asks them to hire a woman. Seasoned heads liken it to hiring a Jack Russell Terrier to type "Woof Woof." A struggling writer hopes she might be hired.

Lissa Evans wrote the novel, "Their Finest Hour and a Half" which was adapted by screenwriter Gaby Chiappe ("Lark Rise to Candleford" - highly recommended) and brilliantly directed by Lone Scherfig ("Italian For Beginners" also highly recommended). This R-rated (language, but not much) comedy, romance and drama, clocks in at under two hours, not a minute of which is wasted.

Scherfig's cast:
  • Gemma Arterton ("Gemma Bovery") is Catrin, a former secretary, now an inexperienced scriptwriter. The men at whom she is thrown make it clear that they really do NOT need her, but they aren't rude. They are British, after all.
  • Jack Huston ("Ben-Hur") Ellis is a struggling artist. His paintings of the Blitz are "too depressing."
  • Sam Claflin ("Me Before You") Tom is one of the screenwriters. The concerns of the War Office would be laughable if they weren't serious. His next script must provide "Authenticity, Optimism and a Dog" to be effective.
  • Bill Nighy ("About Time") is Thespian Ambrose Hilliard and drunken Uncle Frank in the movie within the movie. I admit the romantic leads are subtle and appealing, but make no mistake, this is Nighy's film! He is howlingly funny as he shows us how an A-C-T-O-R responds to each situation.
  • Eddie Marsen ("Ray Donovan") is Hilliard's agent Sammy Smith treading on egg shells because his client's ego is extremely fragile.
  • Jake Lacy ("Miss Sloane") is a stitch as the American-as-Apple-Pie war hero Carl Lundbeck, who is cast in their film with no concern about his (non-existent) acting skills. Britain needs America to join the war.
There are delicious bits scattered throughout, e.g., Jeremy Irons as the Secretary of War reciting the St. Crispin's Day speech from "Henry V," Helen McCrory as Sammy's sister Sophie, and Rachael Stirling as Phyl, the ever-present production assistant. I loved the line outside the sole bathroom in that rooming house, the dusty destruction in those authentic street scenes, and the people's resignation in the Underground shelters.

Bill Nighy gave me goosebumps when he stepped to the center near the end of the film. I will own the DVD just for this moment. I've already pre-ordered it.
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Please take a peek:
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