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.
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.