With so many big event movies coming out these days (read: every Marvel, DC or Disney movie that brings the big bucks), sometimes you don’t want every movie going experience to be this big budgeted, epic scale action movie. Middle cinema is in a major decline, leaving us only with great indies, that don’t often get a wide (or international) release, which means most cinemas are packed full of huge sci-fi, bawdy comedy, or cars jumping from building to building. But when a movie slips through the wall of blockbusters that’s not too big, or too small, it’s the perfect opportunity to go to the cinemas and escape into someone else’s life.
Their Finest is a great example of this: when Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton), a former secretary, is hired as a scriptwriter at the Ministry of Information – Film Division during WWII, to write the women’s lines for propagandist films, she thinks it will only be a stop-gap until the war is over. But as she falls more and more in love with the business and the people she works with, Catrin begins to discover her true calling.
As a romantic dramedy, Their Finest comes from the Downton Abbey school of fiction in that it is a period melodrama, full of dramatic twists and shocks that, whilst not completely enriching the story for the better, do pull your heart along for an emotional ride. The characters’ motivations and likability are as unpredictable as the war they live in, a factor which obviously means that not everyone will survive. What does endure throughout, however, is your love of main character Catrin Cole: her growth throughout the film from doting housewife to successful screenwriter, especially given the time period, is endearing and motivational, particularly as the film reflects the screen industry, whose male domination is still notorious today.
For it was this brief glimpse into the film industry of the time that proved to be the most fun aspect of this often melodramatic film; the cheesy propaganda ads before the features, hilariously crudely shot action scenes, specific writers for women’s lines and collapsing set pieces run amok in this film, all off which add together to recreate the magical mess of showbiz. It might be different nowadays, but it hasn’t changed that much.
This wonderful world also introduces us to an eclectic cast of characters, played by an equally acclaimed cast. Sam Claflin is charmingly smarmy as Mr Buckley; Bill Nighy’s haughty actor Ambrose Hilliard is full of heart, too; Helen McCrory is hilarious as Hilliard’s brutally honest German agent, Sophie; Jake Lacy is a wonderful addition as an American soldier who can’t act – even Jeremy Irons make a brief appearance! – and all of this is held together by Gemma Arterton as the effortlessly likable Catrin.
Sometimes you just need to experience someone else’s emotional rollercoaster; sometimes you just need to step out of your life and into someone else’s for an hour or two. Despite its melodrama, Their Finest will have you invest in its characters no matter how cheesy, and is a great film for when you just need to escape.
It’s a great ensemble, so here’s my top five favourite other films starring the cast of Their Finest:
- Me Before You – Sam Claflin
- About Time – Bill Nighy
- The Office – Jake Lacy
- The Harry Potter series – Helen McCrory
- The Lion King – Jeremy Irons