When Mrs Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) applies for an administrative position with the Ministry of Information's Film Division in Second World War London, she is surprised to end up as a writer of 'the slob' (girl talk) for the morale-boosting war films in Their Finest.
But Catrin takes it in her stride and is soon off to Devon, upon the suggestion of scriptwriter Tom Buckley (Sam Clafin), to follow up on the story of two sisters who helped rescue soldiers after the retreat at Dunkirk. Finding the facts are not quite as reported in the newspaper, she fudges the truth to retain her job so she can afford to stay in London with her air raid warden and artist husband Ellis (Jack Huston).
Tom and Catrin's pitch is successful and they begin working on the script with Catrin quickly learning the ropes. However, the Minister (Jeremy Irons) interferes as he wants to use the film to influence the American public so that the US will enter the war. This results in a Norwegian/American RAF war hero, Carl Lundbeck (Jake Lacy), being dropped into the film.
After the cast and crew, including Tom and Catrin, head to Devon to work on the film, they discover that Lundbeck can't act. When it is suggested to veteran actor, Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy) whose minor role is the sisters' drunkard uncle, that he coach Lundbeck, he refuses. Catrin, quickly learning the ways of the film industry, steps in and sweet talks him into bringing the war hero up to scratch in return for making Hilliard's role meatier.
Tom falls for her, but Catrin remains faithful to Ellis until she returns to London to attend his art exhibition and discovers all is not well in her 'marriage'. She returns to Devon where she and Tom fall out. When the filming is finished the cast and crew return to London to work in the studio. Tom volunteers to rewrite the ending while Catrin works with the actors and crew. Since their argument, Tom has 'been useless' and the new ending he produces is not very good as Catrin discovers. She rewrites it and leaves it, and a letter about how she would re-write their parting scene in Devon, for Tom. They are reconciled but disaster strikes.
Amongst other things, this film is about making a film and it is interesting to see the workings of the film industry. It also pokes fun at the industry and consequently, itself.
I love the cinematography: the muted colours of the Devon landscape and the London streets, and the original monochrome propaganda footage that is included.
This British romance/drama has its humorous moments too, although I wouldn't call it a comedy. For example Ministry supervisor Phyl Moore's (Rachael Stirling) line: 'A lot of men are scared that we won't go back into our boxes when this is all over'. And it's not surprising that being based on the 2009 novel Their finest hour and a half by Lissa Evans, with the screenplay by Gaby Chiappe and Lone Scherfig directing, this film has a feminist bent. However, I feel a few too many subthemes detract from the main plot.
I give this quiet, pleasant film 3 ½ stars.
Starts Thursday 20 April at Cinema Paradiso, Luna on SX and Windsor Cinema