My Mum’s mantra about modern movies is “Why don’t they make films like they used to?”
Well, guess what, Mum? They still do.
At least Lone Scherfig’s latest film, THEIR FINEST, is about how they made films back in the Forties, and so finely made is it, that it does, in fact, feel like a picture made back then.
In the midst of the Second World War, the population of England and her allies were in need of something uplifting they could relate to, to help raise the spirits of the nation during this bleak time.
Going to the pictures became more than just an exercise in entertainment, but an excursion into hope and optimism.
Gemma Arterton stars as Catrin Cole, a creative copywriter who catches the eye of the Government section that produce propaganda feature films. She is employed to create engaging scenarios and write female dialogue, to tap into the emotions and imaginations of the fast growing women’s workforce, to stroke the heart, stoke the hearth, and keep the home fires burning.
Teamed with male screenwriter, the bitter and brittle Buckley, played with cynical savoir faire by Sam Claflin, the pair pursue one particularly patriotic tale; a story of twin sisters who set out to sea in their drunken father’s rickety old boat to rescue brave, wounded soldiers in Dunkirk.
With a “never the let the truth get in the way of a good story” mentality, the screenwriters fashion a rabble rousing flag waver, called The Nancy Starling.
Script written and approved by the Ministry of Information, it now needs to be cast and shot.
Leading the film’s cast is the self-absorbed, yet charismatic thespian Ambrose Hilliard, a part seemingly tailor made for Bill Nighy, begrudgingly settling for a supporting role and coming to terms with the fact his days of being a romantic lead are well behind him. Pushing the disgruntled actor to accept his new career path, is his recently inherited agent, the sister to his suddenly deceased lifelong friend and agent Sammy.
Hilliard is joined by real life heroic American pilot Carl Lundbeck, played by Jake Lacey, a non-professional actor hired to encourage an American audience and nation to join Britain in its fight against Nazi Germany.
Hilliard’s soreness at being relegated to a supporting character role is assuaged somewhat when he becomes the airman’s acting coach on set.
As much as anything, THEIR FINEST is about the art, craft, joy and hard graft of film making, tough enough in peace time, all the more difficult in time of war.
Based on the novel Their Finest Hour and a Half by Lissa Evans with a screenplay by Gaby Chiappe, THEIR FINEST is proof positive of the cast and crew giving their finest.
THEIR FINEST deserves a proper gander. Get your coat on, Mum, we’re going to the pictures.