Their Finest (2017)

Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on April 21, 2017 @

Endings can either raise or raze a film.

A film may be sputtering along, and then the ending strikes. It can elevate the experience or destroy it. How many times have we sat in a movie theatre rooting for a film and hoping that the ending will deliver on its potential? And how many times have we had our hopes dashed by a lousy ending?

Their Finest is an example of a promising film that in the last half hour loses its way. It becomes Their Finest Kitchen Sink. It has four or more different endings and stumbles through them all. It's as though the director left the set for the last half hour.

One character in the film even says she has seen the film (within Their Finest) five times. Probably once for each ending.

Much of the problem is that Their Finest never seems to decide on what it is going to be. Is it a satire, a rom com, a period piece, a character study, a lustless romance (even the kissing is awkward with hands aflutter), a paean to patriotism, or some hodgepodge of various concepts?

For much of its length The Finest is fitfully entertaining, but in the last half hour it becomes soft, predictable, and clumsy. Set in London in 1940, The Finest is about the population under the Blitz. Men are at war. Catrin Cole (Gemma Atherton) seeks a clerical job, but it turns out to be for a scriptwriter to write the "slop" for female dialogue.That suggests there is some sting to come.

With two other writers Catrin is assigned to write a screenplay - based on an event that was supposedly actual - about when two sisters took their father's boat out to rescue some of the soldiers in the waters escaping Dunkirk.

Catrin is in London with a painter (Jack Huston), who doesn't realize her value. What a shock. She has a symbiotic relationship with Buckley (Sam Claflin) a fellow writer. The film they are writing has two men and one woman, and so does the present experience.

The cast is likable, but the writing by Gaby Chiappe, adapted from a novel by Lissa Evans, is uneven. The music is tinkling piano and moaning strings. The direction by Lone Scherfig is all over the place.

Atherton and Huston make an appealing couple, but the film is stolen by Bill Nighy as an aging veteran actor. He plays a ham with hammy aplomb, bellowing lines such as, "The war has skimmed up the cream, and we're left with the rancid curds."

Jeremy Irons makes a cameo appearance as Secretary of War, in which he gets to spout Shakespeare. Something for everyone, with a patina of art.

It's ironic that one character near the conclusion says to Catrin, "You need an ending." Catrin responds, "We're working on it." I think they're still working on it.

As a critic my idea of hell is a film that never ends.

Their Finest gave me a hint of hell.

© 2000-2018 Tony Macklin