I have a confession to make: I was born in the UK and while I’ve lived here in New Zealand most of my life, the mother country still has an emotional pull on me. And when it comes to war films, stories that show the people enduring the blitz have a particular hook for me.
So my interest was piqued when I was invited to see a preview of Their Finest, a story about a hardy bunch of filmmakers creating a morale boosting movie during World War Two.
Essentially the film runs out like a wannabe feminist polemic. Young beautiful Catrin Cole (Gemma Atherton) is trying to be taken seriously by everyone in her life but is basically sidelined by most of the men she meets and even some of the woman. Scoring a job as a scriptwriter for an upcoming film about the Dunkirk retreat, she offers suggestions that are laughed off initially, but her determination wins through and she gains the respect of some of the men surrounding her. She is championed (sort of), by a mildly butch woman who (sort of) confesses she prefers women.
At home, Catrin’s new found independence, defiance and wealth threatens to emasculate her underemployed artist husband and at work, it causes friction with a new love interest and the stiff bureaucrats who oversee the films.
You may not think that sounds very feminist, but Catrin freely voices her opinions, is in fact, not married but shacked up with her boyfriend, and pushes a ‘rights for women’ agenda that is very much about empowerment. She comes partly unstuck however when it turns out she lied about the contribution two sisters made to the evacuation of Dunkirk, and this threatens to undo the entire film project. That act challenges her credentials as someone who is principled. However, in the process of winning small changes, it is deemed acceptable.
In the end, Their Finest is a rather twee, sweetly romantic and mildly comedic story. It does have a couple of genuinely tragic moments, but there is nothing in this film which really challenges. Sure there is a portrayal of sexism, but it seems almost benign in this context – particularly when viewed alongside the battle against fascism. Thats probably where the film is weakest – it could still be sweet and funny yet really nail the prejudice women were saddled with at the time – but it doesn’t. emotions.
Their Finest is however an easy watch with a good cast and it makes for a nice night out at the movies, and thats not a bad thing.
In cinemas 13th April 2017
Directed by: Lone Scherfig
Starring: Gemma Atherton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy, Jack Huston, Helen McCrory, Eddie Marsan, Jake Lacy, Rachael Stirling, Richard E. Grant