It is 1940 and Britain is once again at war. With air raid sirens becoming a part of their daily lives, the ordinary men and women on the home front seek escape from reality on the big screen. The Ministry of Information, headed by Roger Swain (Richard E. Grant) is tasked by the Secretary of War (Jeremy Irons) with the job of spreading propaganda stories of positivity and optimism to garner support for the war effort.
In an era when women are treated as second-class citizens, Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton), a former secretary, is brought in to help scriptwriter, Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin), write the female voice – a.k.a. the “slop” – in a film about a rescue at Dunkirk.
Since the war effort has taken away Britain’s biggest stars, casting becomes a difficult task. Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy), once Britain’s third-most-popular star in the 1920s, struggles to stay relevant. His lunch meetings with his agent, Sammy Smith (Eddie Marsan), are comical until even those precious moments are taken away from him. Hilliard gets a new lease of life when Smith’s sister, Sophie (Helen McCrory) takes over managing his career.
Based on the novel by Lissa Evans, originally titled Their Finest Hour and a Half , Their Finest has been described as a feminist dramedy war story. With the female voice very much at the heart of this film, we see the struggles faced by an intelligent woman who is not trying to be “better than” her male colleagues, but simply to fit into a male-dominated world. She is not paid as much as her colleagues, and even as she enters the office she shares with her colleagues, she is relegated to a cramped corner, not so much because she is being bullied, but because she is not given the kind of respect one would expect of colleagues.While trying to make a living to support herself and her artist husband (Jack Huston), Catrin has to make difficult choices that will have huge consequences. It takes a long time for her to finally gain the respect of not only Buckley, but the crew on their film. Secrets are revealed, lives are lost and everyone must continue to play their part to keep up morale.
The ensemble cast is simply magnificent, giving their finest performances to do justice to the story and characters they represent. They may not be at the Front, but their work is just as important in service to their country as those at war. The lives they lead are no less relevant today as they were in the 1940s. Their Finest will make you laugh and cry in equal measure.
Directed by Lone Scherfig and screenplay adapted by Gaby Chiappe, Their Finest opened across Australia on 20th April. Be sure to see it.