By Jared Huizenga – Contributing Writer
In times of strife, people look to the arts as a way to disconnect from the real world and relax. In times of extreme strife, the arts can take on an even greater purpose.
With the world at war (WWII), her husband physically unfit for military service and his art career on the verge of implosion, Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) must look for work in order to keep a roof over their heads. With a flare for words and a persistent nature, she finds herself working for the British Ministry of Information writing screenplays to help boost the morale of the British people
Alongside her mismatched writing partner, Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin), Catrin works to add a feminine touch to the story of the Dunkirk evacuation.
As the project progresses, the team must deal with egotistical actor Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy); a Secretary of War (Jeremy Irons) that only shows up when there’s new demands or restrictions getting placed on the movie; and, of course, the threat of Nazi bombs falling from the sky at any given moment.
Oh, and despite their differences and her husband, Tom and Catrin might be falling in love with each other.
“Their Finest” is easily the biggest surprise for me so far in 2017. The trailer didn’t wow me, but I’m always willing to give WWII period films a shot, and it’s hard to go wrong with Nighy and Irons.
I’m glad I decided to give it a shot.
The story is fairly light and breezy, with some timely poignant moments so as to not make light of the fairly dire backdrop it’s set against. But even in those more serious times, the film never loses its charm. Pacing is also not an issue – it’s just under two hours long, but feels much shorter.
In terms of its star power, “Their Finest” is blessed with outstanding supporting performances from the aforementioned Nighy and Irons – the former as an aging actor who clings to his one major success from long ago and the latter as the man whose primary function is to deliver bad news and additional challenges to the filmmakers.
But the true star of the show is Arterton. She brings an elegant strength to a character that greatly needs it – especially given the time and details surrounding the movie. Catrin is the strongest character in the story and much of that can be attributed to Arterton … something I never thought I’d see after watching “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.”
With the summer movie season – i.e. superheroes, explosions and sequels – fast approaching, “Their Finest” likely won’t garner the attention it deserves, which is a shame because it’s simply brilliant. Do yourself a favor and watch it before you settle in for a summer of popcorn fare.
★★★★ of ★★★★★
Jared Huizenga is a freelance movie critic. Follow his work at www.facebook.com/JaredMovies.