Their Finest mixes both comedy and drama in this behind the scenes making of a propaganda war film and does so in a way that makes the film feel authentic to the time period.
Directed by An Education‘s Lone Scherfig from a screenplay written by Gaby Chiappe, the film stars Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Jack Huston, Helen McCrory, Eddie Marsan, Jake Lacy, Rachael Stirling, with Richard E. Grant and Bill Nighy. Chiappe’s script was based on the novel Their Finest Hour and a Half, by Lissa Evans.
Not to be confused with Christopher Nolan’s upcoming film, Dunkirk, Their Finest goes in a different direction in showing us what goes on behind the scenes with getting their Dunkirk evacuation film on screen. The film crew seeks to boost England’s morale during World War 2 by making a propaganda film. It’s easier said than done. Not only are they hoping to inspire the residents of England but they are also trying to get the United States to enter the war. It’s 1940 and the US won’t enter until December 1941 following the events of Pearl Harbor.
Catrin Cole (Arterton) is a copywriter employed to write the lines for women in England’s propaganda films. With Buckley (Claflin), the two write the movie about the Dunkirk evacuation, The Nancy Starling. They focus in on two twin sisters and their uncle, to be played by actor Ambrose Hilliard (Nighy). Finding out from the sisters that they made up their story, Cole goes through with writing a movie that she believes audiences will want to see and presents it to the Ministry of Information. Worse, Ambrose isn’t happy with what happens to his character and woos Cole to make his character better in order to teach American pilot Carl Lundbeck (Lacy) how to act. Lundbeck is only hired to try and get the US into the war.
Even though Cole is married to Ellis (Huston), it’s clear that there’s a brewing romance between her and Buckley–which is why it makes it so hard to watch the events transpire during the third act. The audience no doubt will root for the two of them to end up together. It’s a made-for-movie relationship.
“Ambrose Hilliard was once nearly-famous, as he had a franchise playing a detective in a series of films that were popular,” Nighy says of his role. “But he’s grown too old now to play romantic lead roles so he’s had to be persuaded into a character role and he’s not happy about it – until it turns out that people are quite encouraging about what he’s doing with the character, and then he cheers up. He’s not in terrific shape and he hasn’t entirely survived in tact through his progress in the world of show business. But I hasten to point out that it’s not something peculiar, it’s not a product of being an actor, it happens to biochemists as well.”
Following its debut at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival, STX Entertainment opened the film in the United States on April 7, 2017. Lionsgate will release the Blu-ray (plus Digital HD) and DVD on July 11th. Europa will release the film on Digital HD on June 30th and On Demand on July 11th.