"Uplifting, Humorous, Patriotic War Drama Marred by Annoying Missteps"
What You Need To Know:
THEIR FINEST is touching, funny, and well-acted. However, the movie’s worldview is mixed. It varies between Romantic, feminist elements and moral, patriotic ones. Also, THEIR FINEST contains several “f” words and several strong profanities. Regrettably, the movie avoids truth about the miracle of Dunkirk. Finally, there’s a depicted bedroom scene with explicit nudity. So, despite all the moral, patriotic, worthwhile moments in THEIR FINEST, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution.
(PaPa, RoRo, FeFe, BB, PP, RHRH, Ho, LL, V, SS, NN, A, D, MM) Strong mixed (pagan) worldview supporting strong revisionist history and featuring strong Romantic, feminist elements about women in British society during the 1940s wherein the female protagonist committed to another man falls in love with her male co-worker (though they don’t start an adulterous affair), set against the moral, patriotic background of World War II so there’s some strong moral, patriotic moments (positive elements include a “God bless,” but faith and religion otherwise take a distant backseat), plus a supporting character makes an offhand, somewhat cryptic comment that indicates she may be a lesbian but it’s very light and brief so it’s more of a suggestion or a possibility than a story development; 10 obscenities (including six or seven “f” words), four strong profanities and five light profanities; light violence as Germans bomb London, woman comes upon a dead female civilian during one bombing raid, another bombing raid causes a tragic accident, man goes to identify a dead body, scenes of shooting and danger from a movie within the movie about British civilians saving British and French soldiers trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk (one of the movie characters is shot and dies, another is wounded); brief depicted fornication scene, two heterosexual characters live in sin, but nothing salacious is shown between them, a man is clearly interested in a married woman, but nothing salacious occurs, and she holds him off (even though she also may be attracted to him), a couple romantic kisses in one scene as a man and woman finally begin a relationship; upper female and male nudity in brief bedroom scene; alcohol use; smoking; and, cheating, woman lies but is discovered, a middle-aged actor is disgruntled about his career and his next role as a supporting character rather than being the lead character, people complain about government restrictions on the movie they’re making, and filmmakers decide to ignore some truths while making a propaganda movie about Dunkirk.
THEIR FINEST is a British period drama set during World War II about a young woman who becomes part of the writing team working on a propaganda movie about two ordinary British women rescuing soldiers from the Battle of Dunkirk. THEIR FINEST is a very poignant, beautifully designed war drama full of humor, romance and patriotism, but it has a mixed worldview and there’s some gratuitous “f” words and annoying profanities, plus an explicit bedroom scene that comes out of nowhere. Regrettably, the movie ignores truth about the miracle of Dunkirk.
The movie opens in 1940 during Germany’s bombing of London. Catlin Cole, an advertising writer, is asked to write female dialogue for British war propaganda movies. Her co-writer, a handsome young man named Buckley, refers to such dialogue as “slop.” The filmmakers are intrigued about the report of two twin sisters who took their father’s boat without his permission to pick up stranded British and Allied soldiers on the beaches of Dunkirk. The Battle of Dunkirk, and the rescue of 338,000 Allied soldiers, was a major propaganda victory for Britain and its Allies, mostly because ordinary British civilians took part in rescuing the soldiers by using their own small boats. Reportedly, 861 boats were used, of which about 240 were sunk during the rescue.
Catlin goes to interview the twins, but discovers they never made it to Dunkirk because their boat’s engine died. However, Catlin goes back to the other filmmakers and lies.
Meanwhile, it becomes clear that Catlin and Buckley seem more suited to one another than Catlin and her husband, Ellis. Ellis is a struggling artist, a painter, who’s bum leg has consigned him to being an air raid warden.
Will Catlin and Buckley have an adulterous affair? Will Catlin’s lie be discovered? Will the patriotic movie about Dunkirk ever come together?
There are some surprising, funny and even tragic twists to this story. The approach of THEIR FINEST to the illicit love triangle is reminiscent of CASABLANCA. So, the filmmakers add a couple twists that avoid turning their movie into a story supporting adultery. Also, they insert an unexpected tragedy near the end that will elicit some tears from the audience and add even more depth to the movie.
The most delightful part of THEIR FINEST is the humor amidst all the story’s wartime troubles and tragedies. Most of the humor centers on the character of a middle-aged actor, played beautifully by Bill Nighy of Disney’s PIRATES movies and LOVE ACTUALLY. The writers decide to turn the father in the Dunkirk story into a drunken uncle who accidentally is found sleeping on the boat when the twin girls take it to Dunkirk. The middle-aged actor asked to play the uncle, a pompous man named Ambrose Hilyard, used to play leading roles, but he’s extremely miffed he has to take a supporting role. The fact is, no one really wants him anymore, especially since he’s become so difficult to work with on a project. Catlin is asked to smooth things out with Ambrose, and she surprisingly succeeds, to the point that Ambrose becomes an even more vital part of the whole move project. This subplot is rather fun and has its own emotional twists and turns.
THEIR FINEST is touching, funny and sometimes heartbreaking. However, the movie’s worldview is mixed. On the one hand, its story has some strong Romantic, feminist elements. Although the heroine doesn’t really succumb to adultery, the movie’s tone may suggest to some (if not many or most) viewers that she should. Also, the movie makes a lot of feminist points about the disdain which British society at the time, including many men, had toward women in the workplace. In the end, Catlin becomes a career woman, and this is part of what adds some tension to her relationship with Ellis, who’d rather she stayed home. Catlin points out to him several times, though, that they need the money she earns.
The movie’s feminist angle, however, is not so overbearing that it becomes extremely politically correct. MOVIEGUIDE® only mentions it to give would-be viewers a heads up about it.
A bigger problem is the fact that the movie contains several gratuitous “f” words and gratuitous profanities misusing the name of Jesus. Also, about two-thirds of the way into the story, there’s a brief explicit bedroom scene with explicit nudity.
A less problematic issue is that the heroine lies to her co-workers about the real story behind the movie they’re making. When the lie is finally discovered, the filmmakers decide to forget about it and treat their fictionalized story more like a metaphorical example of what actually took place at Dunkirk. Of course, the mass rescue at Dunkirk was indeed, and truly, a great example of the patriotic strength, courage and perseverance of the British people as they confronted the evils of Adolf Hitler’s brutal National Socialist regime. Ironically, when tragedy strikes the film crew at the end of THEIR FINEST, Catlin herself is forced to use her own personal depths of strength, courage and perseverance to survive psychologically. In effect, she faces her own Dunkirk.
In that light, it’s truly interesting to note, that the end of THEIR FINEST shows the British public’s reaction to the patriotic Dunkirk movie that Catlin, Buckley, Ambrose, and the other filmmakers create. The filmmakers show moviegoers in theaters being very moved by their movie. These scenes at the end echo MOVIEGUIDE®’s frequent contention of the extraordinary power that movies and other visual entertainment can have on people’s hearts, minds and scripts of behavior. Even more interesting is that, at the end of THEIR FINEST, the crowd at the screening MOVIEGUIDE® attended burst out into an applause of admiration for what they had just screened. That’s even more proof of MOVIEGUIDE®’s contention.
Sadly, all this makes it even more annoying that the filmmakers behind THEIR FINEST decided to insert such strong, even anachronistic, foul language into their movie, not to mention such gratuitously explicit content in the movie’s brief bedroom scene. This content earned the movie an R rating, which will hurt the movie’s box office. That said, THEIR FINEST is likely to do reasonably well at the box office despite that, because the rest of the movie’s story is so strong and well-produced. However, MOVEGUIDE® must advise extreme caution regarding THEIR FINEST because of its gratuitously graphic content (brief and intermittent though it may be).
What is very sad about the movie is that it never ever reports the truth and the facts about the miracle of Dunkirk. In what is still called ‘the Miracle of Dunkirk’ the story is told of how over 300,000 British troops were snatched from the beaches of France in an operation that was so fraught with dangers that success can only be attributed to a miraculous combination of circumstances.