Their Finest Review: Routine Feel-Good Fare That Eventually Rewards Patient Viewers

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For most of its runtime, Lone Scherfig’s Their Finest plays like a harmlessly conventional feel-good story of a female screenwriter making her voice heard during World War II. Through this period, the film is perfectly pleasant and watchable, but lacking a larger significance outside of merely being serviceable. But then the third act happens, with a shocking and genuinely interesting take on the “happy ending” serving its rich characters better than the film purposefully tricked us into thinking.

Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) is hired by the British ministry’s film division to put “a woman’s touch” on their films, as audiences are primarily made up of women while all the men are serving in the military. Her ideas are met with tepid applause at first, especially by her stuffy co-writer Tom (Sam Claflin), but as the film begins to take shape, thanks to Catrin’s ideas whenever the government comes down and adds a new workaround. But she eventually earns the support of her crew, especially in fictional British has-been superstar Ambrose Hilliard (a hilarious Bill Nighy).

With a cookie-cutter crowd-pleasing plot like that, Their Finest manages to be warm and engaging throughout, even if the routine is largely unbroken. But just as the cliches begin to mount, the film sweeps the rug out from under you and morphs itself into a fascinating study on expectations. Catrin’s final test is dark and difficult, while the film itself pulls off a staggering tonal shift without losing any of its warmth, making for a much more memorable film than it seemed to be building to. The smart ending doesn’t make up for a lot of the film being utterly unremarkable, but it certainly pushes it into a higher tier of cinema. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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