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Movie Review

Their Finest also known as “Their Finest,” “Their Finest Hour,” “Heróis da Nação,” “Su mejor historia,” “Zwyczajna dziewczyna”

MPAA Rating: R for some language and a scene of sexuality.

Reviewed by: Jim O'Neill
CONTRIBUTOR

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Romance Comedy Drama
Length:
1 hr. 57 min.
Year of Release:
2016
USA Release:
January 21, 2017 (festival)
April 7, 2017 (select—4 theaters)
April 14, 2017 (wide—52 theaters)
DVD: July 11, 2017
Copyright, EuropaCorp USA click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, EuropaCorp USA Copyright, EuropaCorp USA
Relevant Issues
Copyright, EuropaCorp USA

What is the Biblical perspective on war? Answer

Did God make the world the way it is now? What kind of world would you create? Answer

FEAR, Anxiety and Worry—What does the Bible say? Answer

Prayer

PRAYER—Tips for new and growing Christians

Why aren’t my prayers answered? Answer

effectual prayer

repentance

fear of the Lord

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faith

Copyright, EuropaCorp USA

PATRIOTISM—Does being a Christian mean that I should be patriotic? Answer

Issue of pain and suffering

Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer

What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer

Does God feel our pain? Answer

ORIGIN OF BAD—How did bad things come about? Answer

Copyright, EuropaCorp USA

issue of filmmakers ignoring the truth

lying vesus truth

Copyright, EuropaCorp USA

fornication

PURITY—Should I save sex for marriage? Answer

Sex, Love and Relationships
Learn how to make your love the best it can be. Christian answers to questions about sex, marriage, sexual addictions, and more. Valuable resources for Christian couples, singles and pastors.

women in the Bible

Biblical women with admirable character, include: Mrs. Noah, Mary (mother of Jesus), Esther, Deborah, and Milcah, daugher of Zelophehad

Copyright, EuropaCorp USA Copyright, EuropaCorp USA Copyright, EuropaCorp USA Copyright, EuropaCorp USA
Featuring: Gemma ArtertonCatrin Cole
Sam Claflin … Tom Buckley
Bill NighyAmbrose Hilliard / Uncle Frank
Jack Huston … Ellis Cole
Paul Ritter … Raymond Parfitt
Rachael Stirling … Phyl Moore
Richard E. Grant … Roger Swain
Henry Goodman … Gabriel Baker
Jake Lacy … Carl Lundbeck / Brannigan
Jeremy IronsSecretary of War
Eddie MarsanSammy Smith
Helen McCrory … Sophie Smith
more »
Director: Lone ScherfigLone Scherfig—“An Education” (2009), “Italian for Beginners” (2000), “One Day” (2011)
Producer: Finola Dwyer
Amanda Posey
more »
Distributor: EuropaCorp USA

The British film, “Their Finest” is based on a comic novel by Lisa Evans called Their Finest Hour and a Half. The book, in turn, takes its title from the words of one of Winston Churchill’s inspirational World War II speeches:

“…if the British empire and its commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will say that THIS was their finest hour.”

Danish director, Lone Sherling, who made two of the last decade’s best films (“Italian for Beginners” and “An Education”), directs a solid screenplay by Gabbie Chiappe that cogently blends the routine with the surprising, the funny with the heartrending, and the real with the made-up. They have crafted a great comic movie, one that reveals how humor is man’s response to an unbalanced world and how laughter, joy and salvation come with a price.

Ms. Shefling and Ms. Chiappe tell the behind-the-scenes story of a movie studio’s efforts, under the direction of the British War Department, to make a film that will entertain an audience and will also galvanize the British public during the Blitz of 1940, when the outlook for freedom, and even survival, was grim.

Catrin Cole (a captivating Gemma Arterton) thinks she is taking a job as a secretary at the movie studio, but quickly finds herself co-writing scripts with the studio’s head writer Tom Buckley (Sam Chaplin, who more than redeems himself after his pallid turn in the dreadful “Me Before You”). Buckley recognizes Cole’s talent early on and assigns her to write “the slops,” the trade name for “women’s dialogue.” Her natural proficiency, her hard work and her grit (she casually brushes the bomb dust off her desk as she is typing a script revision)—qualities that personified the heroism of the common Londoner who faced uncommon odds during World War II—ensure her swift rise from sketcher of “slops” to major screenwriter.

The Punch and Judy nature of Mr. Buckley and Mrs. Cole’s working relationship ignites a romance, an ire-filled one that sprouts more thorns than buds (I hope it is not a spoiler to reveal that, although she calls herself Mrs. Cole, Catrin is not legally married). Their adversarial meetings frustrate each other, but their friction allows them to flower in a way that neither can do alone. Mrs. Cole is certainly the better writer, but Buckley keeps her grounded, and despite her abilities, she needs that grounding. Buckley is constantly editing her lines, throwing pages back at her as if they were yesterday’s newspapers:

“Lose half,” he tells her. “Which half?” she asks. “The half you don’t need.”

Mrs. Cole’s copy is not the only thing Buckley tries to pare down. He resents the Bohemian melodrama that she has created for herself, one in which she pretends to be the wife of a struggling artist (played well by Jack Huston, who also redeems himself after last year’s “Ben-Hur” embarrassment) who stays home and paints bleak scenes of the London blitz while his wife goes off to work. Mrs. Cole discovers that her artist’s afternoons at home without her are anything but bleak. That truth may set her free, but she resents it’s going off script. Buckley’s persistent haranguing brings Catrin off that cloud. He pulls her down to earth, and she, in turn, tames his reflexive misanthropy and his bottomless pessimism (he calls a full moon on a heavenly night a “bomber’s moon”).

The entire supporting cast of “Their Finest” is splendid. Even a bull terrier gives a performance that evokes admiration, and tears. Bill Nighy stands out, and often steals the show, as Ambrose Hilliard, an aging film actor who is given a small but pivotal part in the planned film. Hilliard’s days as a star may be long past, but he does not let that sap his vast reserves of ego and self-regard. Hilliard is vain and selfish, but Nighy imbues those traits with more comedy than venom. The old ham may be self-centered and selfish, but like a real gentleman, and a real Englishman, he gamely steps forward whenever he is asked to do something truly selfless.

Films about films (Vincent Minnelli’s “The Bad and the Beautiful,” Fellini’s “8½,” Woody Allen’s “The Purple Rose of Cairo”) can be captivating in their depiction of how the sausage gets made, but unlike many of them, “Their Finest” keeps the contempt and self-loathing at bay, and lets the creative process take pride in its own hard work and dignity. Set in any other time or place, such a tale of daring-do might seem sentimental or hokey, but when one’s street, pub, and home become unremitting German targets, a story about ordinary people doing extraordinary things is anything but shallow.

Their Finest

Buckley and Cole tell a parallel story in their screenplay: twin sisters who live on a country farm borrow their father’s boat, and with the help of their kind-hearted but boozy uncle, they steer the small craft toward Dunkirk in order to set free a group of stranded soldiers. Due to the demands of the film’s producers, and the war department’s representatives, the girls’ real-life adventure gets reworked to the point that it becomes a story not so much based on fact as one that rolls on in spite of the fact.

Even more script revisions are made during production as German bombs constantly wreak havoc on the writers, the actors and the movie itself. Despite the difficulties, Cole and Buckley’s efforts eventually pay off. It’s a joy to watch their film come together, and especially to see the effect it has on a real movie audience.

On the page and on the screen, Cole and Buckley get to create their own ending, one that they and their audience can both cheer. But unlike the movies, real life can be a cheat. What we hope for or count on is ultimately a toss-up. Sometimes there is darkness; other times there is light. Part of that light comes from a screen when the theater is dark and the faces in the crowd wait with anticipation and hope. The greater part comes from a faith in knowing that good does prevail, and that today’s suffering will some day bear fruit.

“Weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30).

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Heavy—9 profanities, f-words (6) / Sex/Nudity: Moderate—includes unnecessary sexual scene with brief upper nudity (female and male)


Editor’s note:

Faith and studying God’s Word for understanding and guidance are important at all times, and perhaps especially during the tragedies and hardships of war. As with most secular worldview movies, this is ignored by “Their Finest.” The film also overlooks some of the apparently miraculous events of the Dunkirk evacuation that followed A National Day of Prayer. Code-named Operation Dynamo, the evacuation came to be known as the Miracle of Dunkirk.

  • Rather than collapsing in fear and surrender, as the Nazis were totally defeating Europe and were about to crush the military of Britain, the people rallied
  • Hitler missed his great opportunity to slaughter and enslave the Allied troops, temporarily halting his seemingly invincible Wehrmacht when he should have quickly advanced.
  • A furious air battle ensued, with the Nazi Luftwaffe having clear numerical superiority, yet somehow they utterly failed to stop the evacuation.
  • Hundreds of boats of every description came to the rescue of desperate, trapped soldiers.
  • The normally treacherous English Channel was “as smooth as a millpond”
  • 338,000 Allied troops were evacuated from the beaches (instead of the 50,000 hoped for, at best).
  • The 111,000 rescued French soldiers formed the Free French resistance.

The Nazis could have defeated their opposition and taken Britain. Instead, the results of that day of prayer and the continued faith of Christians ultimately brought Nazi defeat, rescuing the world from its terrible blood lust and tyranny which sought to exterminate God’s people.

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive
Positive—Having over 300 books and DVDs on this period of history, I was irresistibly drawn to this movie; and I wasn’t disappointed. The script, acting, cinematography and historical accuracy were good, and the profanity and nudity, although grating, were brief. Although the lead character is in a common-law relationship, her mate’s infidelity is not dealt with lightly, but presented as a crushing blow.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Brian Schacht, age 70 (Canada)
Negative
Negative—I watched this movie, as my boyhood years were during the years of WWII. It wasn’t one thing or the other, a drama or a comedy. During an air raid, Gemma goes into the street, you hear the distinct scream of a Stukka dive bomber followed by an explosion. During all my years living in London, I never heard or saw a single Stukka. They were slow aircraft easily shot down; I doubt any ever ventured as far as London.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 2½
—Alan Oliver, age 80 (United Kingdom)

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