Their Finest | Gemma Arterton boosts home-front morale in this charming Blitz-era comedy
Gemma Arterton is on shining form as a diffident young Welsh woman who lands a job with a unit making short propaganda films for the Ministry of Information at the height of the Blitz in Their Finest, an utterly winning comedy-drama from Danish director Lone Scherfig (An Education, The Riot Club).
Hired to write 'the slop', as dialogue between women is dismissively termed by her jaded writer colleague Buckley (Me Before You’s Sam Claflin), she ends up working on a morale-boosting feature film about the exploits of a couple of seafaring sisters during the Dunkirk evacuation.
"A cute dog and a strapping American"
The film within the film is hilarious. There are roles for a cute dog and a strapping American war hero (the dog's the better actor), and for Bill Nighy's vain, past-his-peak film star, aghast at being cast as the girls' boozy uncle.
Yet for all the humour, the horror of war is never far away. Scherfig and debutant screenwriter Gabby Chiappe (adapting Lissa Evans' Orange-nominated novel Their Finest Hour and a Half) keep us aware of the precariousness of life during war, even for those on the home front. And they make some sharp feminist points about the way men during WW2 hung on to their condescension even as they grudgingly allowed women to fill new roles.
Above all, though, Their Finest is joyous, uplifting fun.
Certificate 12A. Runtime 117 mins. Director Lorne Scherfig
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A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.