Morale under fire

This is my review of Their Finest [Blu-ray] [2017].

Although you may think that every possible angle on World War Two has been covered on screen, “Their Finest” builds an entertaining, humorous yet at times poignant drama round the to modern eyes corny but evocative propaganda films produced to raise morale.

Gemma Arterton plays “Mrs Cole”, the irrepressible young woman hired to churn out “slop”, or women’s parts in film scripts. She is soon involved in the major project of an “authentic and optimistic” film extolling the bravery of two Cornish sisters who use their father’s fishing boat to help evacuate soldiers from Dunkerque. There is a topical note in what proves to be the “fake news” which Catrin Cole artfully conceals, in an initial example of the steely determination beneath her demur demeanour. The job is made harder by continual government interference, such as the requirement for the film to include a major part for a real-life, highly decorated American serviceman, in a ploy to help lure the US into the war.

The film continually reminds us how much progress has been made in equality for women, as Catrin meets blatant chauvinism at every turn, not least the angry response of her husband, a struggling artist who feels humiliated at the thought of her paying the rent. In addition to the injustice of earning less because she is female, Catrin has to endure the dismissive contempt of Buckley, the arrogant young scriptwriter in residence, who grins maliciously as he watches her squeeze round furniture to reach her desk in a dark corner.

Bill Nighy steals the show as the impossibly vain, ageing actor, querulous over the lack of good parts after the past glory of his leading role in a popular detective series. Although it seems a little too slick at first, the dialogue sustains a witty pace. As Catrin wins the men over, this film could have descended into a bland, sentimental treatment of the last war, but some dark incidents, even if a little too coincidental, give the drama more depth.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 Stars

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