Film re­view

Ac­tor Bill Nighy is a re­ward­ing cast­ing for TV3’s movie ex­pert Kate Rodger in this story about mak­ing a morale-boost­ing film in wartime Bri­tain.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - ON SCREEN -

Their Finest Star­ring Bill Nighy, Gemma Arter­ton and Sam Claflin. Di­rected by Lone Scher­fig.

From the di­rec­tor of the most ex­cel­lent Os­car-nom­i­nated film An Ed­u­ca­tion, and the sub­se­quent dis­ap­point­ingly sac­cha­rine book adap­ta­tion One Day, comes an­other very Bri­tish story; and a very watch­able Bri­tish story at that.

Based on the 2009 novel Their Finest Hour and a Half, Lone Scher­fig once again brings a book to the big screen, this one set in WW2 London dur­ing the Blitz.

Bri­tish ac­tress Gemma Arter­ton hit the big time as a Bond Girl op­po­site Daniel Craig in Quan­tum of So­lace but has never re­ally man­aged to build on that mo­men­tum. I’m no big fan, but I saw a hint of the same charm we get here, in the rather en­ter­tain­ing black com­edy Ta­mara Drewe a few years back. This role of Mrs Ca­trin Cole seems to fit her like a glove.

London is be­ing bombed re­lent­lessly, and the Bri­tish are try­ing ev­ery­thing they can to boost morale and keep the home fires burn­ing. This stretches into the local movie houses, and those left to make them are beaver­ing away with lim­ited re­sources and even less in­spi­ra­tion. So when a cer­tain Mrs Cole hap­pens along, with more than a lit­tle tal­ent as a writer, she lands a job script­ing the next big pic­ture. En­ter stage left the “ro­mance” por­tion of this ro­man­tic com­edy, her acer­bic co-writer Mr Tom Buck­ley (Sam Claflin). Firmly as­sur­ing her she’s em­ployed purely to “write the slop”, oth­er­wise known as “the women’s di­a­logue”, it’s very clear from the get-go the sparks will fly. But of course, it’s com­pli­cated; she’s a “Mrs” Cole af­ter all, hap­pily mar­ried to a strug­gling war artist. Tom’s grow­ing feel­ings look sure to be un­re­quited ones.

As their film takes shape, there are all sorts of com­pli­ca­tions courtesy of the War Of­fice. Pres­sure comes to bear to tell the right story well, and truthfully, while go­ing that ex­tra mile to show the Al­lied Forces in the best pos­si­ble light.

As with all pro­duc­tions, the cast­ing is key. But with so many of the pop­u­lar ac­tors of the time away fight­ing the war, there are slim pick­ings on the thes­pian front. Fad­ing star Am­brose Hil­liard (Bill Nighy) still feeds off his own en­gorged ego, de­spite the fact the one big role he played was years ago. Of course he finds this whole silly film en­tirely be­neath him and the char­ac­ter he’s be­ing begged to play is “a ship­wreck of a man”, but he re­luc­tantly signs up. In do­ing so, our own trip to the cinema be­comes worth every cent of the ticket price – Bill Nighy de­lights at every turn, Hil­liard’s to­tal lack of self-aware­ness mined for max­i­mum hu­mour, while at the same time pump­ing blood into the real heart of the story.

For cinephiles ev­ery­where the film within a film as­pect of this tale will have enor­mous ap­peal; throw in the al­ways mem­o­rable

Bill Nighy and we have a most wor­thy of au­tum­nal out­ings.

The fi­nal act is not with­out its stum­bles and much of the plot is a les­son in pre­dictabil­ity; but strangely that didn’t stop this very en­gag­ing tale from sur­rep­ti­tiously slip­ping un­der my skin. By the time the fi­nal cred­its rolled, it sud­denly oc­curred to me that I’d en­joyed my­self very much in­deed.

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