Their Finest is now available to buy / rent and I’d solidly recommend it. It tells the story of a young woman (Gemma Arterton) who is employed to write realistic women’s dialogue (‘slop’ as it’s called in the film) in WWII propaganda reels and starts writing a feature film, based on the experience of two young women, about the evacuation of Dunkirk.
What I liked about the film was that, and this is no claim of documentary realism, it feels like the behind the scenes view of a Powell and Pressburger film… or at least as one would dream it to be. And that’s the key, the heart and the message are in the right place. It’s a film that knows the importance of myth and hope. It’s funny and heartbreaking, there’s love, a bit with a dog and Bill Nighy is on top form doing his best Bill Nighy impression.
There’s a touch of Scarlett O’Hara about Daisy, the self-regarding and troubled teenage protagonist of this grim WWIII tale. That’s not to say that she’s obnoxious (although she is a bit) but this is a survival story that knows that living is about more than being a good person and, to quote another movie, deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.
Based on the book by Meg Rosoff, this works not only as a teen drama but it also sits nicely with that particularly effective and tough strand of British sci-fi that pits nice middle-class types against the end of the world (be it Triffids, zombies, Rage, infertility, creepy blond children, famine, etc, etc…) but, unlike the majority of British WWII movies from the immediate post-war period, know that getting your hands dirty is the best way to survive. It also wins extra points for keeping the whys and whats of the situation vague and the people front and centre, a viewpoint often achieved through interesting visuals that really lift the film without widening the scope too far.
Recommended and a harder film than one might expect.