Their Finest (2017)

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Critic Consensus: Carried along by a winning performance from Gemma Arterton, Their Finest smoothly combines comedy and wartime drama to crowd-pleasing effect.

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The year is 1940, London. With the nation bowed down by war, the British ministry turns to propaganda films to boost morale at home. Realizing their films could use "a woman's touch," the ministry hires Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) as a scriptwriter in charge of writing the female dialogue. Although her artist husband looks down on her job, Catrin's natural flair quickly gets her noticed by cynical, witty lead scriptwriter Buckley (Sam Claflin). Catrin and Buckley set out to make an epic feature film based on the Dunkirk rescue starring the gloriously vain, former matinee idol Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy). As bombs are dropping all around them, Catrin, Buckley and their colorful cast and crew work furiously to make a film that will warm the hearts of the nation

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Cast

Gemma Arterton
as Catrin Cole
Bill Nighy
as Ambrose Hilliard / Uncle Frank
Sam Claflin
as Tom Buckley
Jack Huston
as Ellis Cole
Jake Lacy
as Carl Lundbeck / Brannigan
Richard E. Grant
as Roger Swain
Paul Ritter
as Raymond Parfitt
Rachael Stirling
as Phyl Moore
Henry Goodman
as Gabriel Baker
Jeremy Irons
as Secretary of War
Eddie Marsan
as Sammy Smith
Helen McCrory
as Sophie Smith
Hubert Burton
as Wyndham Best / Johnnie
Claudia Jessie
as DorisCleavely / Lily
Stephanie Hyam
as Angela Ralli-Thomas / Rose
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Critic Reviews for Their Finest

All Critics (151) | Top Critics (23)

Stories to inspire a nation have long made up a sizable percentage of Hollywood schlock, and Their Finest deserves credit for exploring a woman's role in such an effort.

Apr 21, 2017 | Full Review…

Although the narrative for Their Finest occasionally rambles ... it is by-and-large a stirring drama that incorporates lighter moments with scenes of deeply felt tragedy.

Apr 20, 2017 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Drenched in a sweet nostalgia that only very rarely tips into sentimentality.

Apr 20, 2017 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

"Their Finest" is a charming and thoughtful movie, about people making a charming and thoughtful movie.

Apr 20, 2017 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Could've been 'War, Actually' - but this witty, sophisticated and unexpectedly sober romcom never falls into the obvious traps.

Apr 18, 2017 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

At its best, which is often, Their Finest... manipulates appearance and reality, relief and recognition, with exquisite finesse. As befits a film about making films.

Apr 17, 2017 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Their Finest

Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy, and a stellar cast of British character actors shine a light on the movie making process in which fact gives way to truth in order to tell a compelling story. There is humor and pathos, intrigue and great courage, hardships and sacrifices, all set during the siege of London. Directed by Lone Scherfig, based on a novel by Lissa Evans, I can highly recommend it.

Mark Abell
Mark Abell

Super Reviewer

Being released the same year as Christopher Nolan's 'Dunkirk' coming in July, it seems a little coincidental similar referenced film is also released. 'Their Finest' is really about 1940's propaganda film making at the height of WWII, where an unlikely ensemble band together to make something incredible. I must say ever since I saw 'Prince of Persia' in 2012 I've always had a huge crush on Gemma Arterton and this film holds no bars as this is an outstanding performance from her as a Welsh screenwriter, while her chemistry and relationships with the other cast members is superbly delightful. It is in itself a piece of social commentary on the world war 2 period, also on past film industry practices. Admirable as it is as a small scale drama, whilst throwing smart pieces of comedy and romance into it's mix as it's one of the most unique and well accomplished pieces of British Cinema I've seen this year alone. I highly recommend this delightfully crowd pleasing underrated British flick that should be on people watch list this year even if you are definitely thinking of seeing Dunkirk in July.

Luke Eberhardt
Luke Eberhardt

Super Reviewer

"They don't make movies like they used to ..." goes the common complaint, but here is a work that directly contradicts that. Set in wartime Britain, a woman gets hired to work on a inspirational movie about women during the war. Drenched in nostalgia for a simpler time it mostly succeeds insofar as romcoms go.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

Their Finest (not to be confused with Their Finest Hours, even though this is based on a book called Their Finest Hour and a Half) is a disarmingly sweet and poignant true story that resonates with empowerment and the power of creativity. Set at the start of WWII, the British film industry is trying to make ends meet as well as provide morale boosts to the public. Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton, her best performance yet) goes in for a copywriting job and walks out a hired screenwriter, pegged to write the "women's parts." Thanks to the depleted workforce, Catrin has an opportunity she never would have otherwise and she blossoms under the crucible of creative collaboration. This was one aspect of the movie that I was very taken with, as a writer and screenwriter myself, the natural progression of creativity, solving a problem, finding a solution, and the elation that follows. The complications keep coming, first from the British film office who need the movie to be inspirational, then from the divergences from the true story of a pair of French girls who stole their uncle's boat to rescue soldiers at Dunkirk, then from working with American producers who insist on an American hero who can't act, and then from natural calamities of scheduling, casting, and oh yeah, the bombing and blitzes that could obliterate everyone. The movie is alive with conflict and feeling and the sweet story of a woman finding her sense of empowerment in the arts. The movie-within-the-movie is filmed to period appropriate techniques, and Bill Nighy is effortlessly amusing as an aging actor still fighting for some scrap of respect in an industry ready to forget him. The insights into the different stages of film production were fun and illuminating. I appreciated that the war isn't just something in the background but a constant. It upsets the order, takes lives, and is a striking reminder why these people are doing what they're doing. The film also rhapsodizes the power of the arts, and in particular cinema, in a way that feels reverent without being overly sentimental or self-congratulatory. A great collection of characters is assembled as a ramshackle sort of family with a mission, and the movie drives right into one payoff after another, lifting your spirits and warming your heart. There is a sudden plot turn that will likely disappoint many in the audience eager for a simple happy ending, but I almost view it as industry satire on the difference between American and European cinema tastes. Their Finest is a small gem with sympathetic characters trying their finest and achieving something great. It's a rich story that deserves its moment in the spotlight and I'd advise seeking it out if possible. Nate's Grade: B+

Nate Zoebl
Nate Zoebl

Super Reviewer

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