I got to see a screening of “Their Finest” at the Chicago European Union Film Festival yesterday. Perhaps because I am deep down still a Brit, I wrapped myself into its cozy, delectable blanket. However, the American audience that i joined also thoroughly enjoyed the viewing. Smiles were on their faces as they left the theater. This dramatic comedy from Danish director Lone Scherfig has a number of themes that it caresses with acumen. Just as the characters are, in typical European fashion, developed slowly so too is the underlying love story. There is also a feministic fight for respect, the sad effects of war, the plucky determination, the fight for survival of an aging actor, and the embodiment of the British motto “Keep Calm and Carry On”. All of this is found within the story of a film crew as they make a film that is needed to make the citizenry feel good and proud. The two screenwriting leads fight to keep the integrity of the project while meeting the challenge to deal with the interference of the studio and the government with the directive for “authenticity informed by optimism”.
Led by the very capable and beautiful Gemma Arterton who is supported by Sam Claflin [Me Before You], the always indefatigable scene stealer Bill Nighy, and Rachel Stirling as a very open lesbian, the cast carries off the fine balance of comedy and drama without a hitch. Nighy’s masterful touch is seen both in the film and the film within the film. Jeremy Irons fits well with a great humorous cameo. The acting is just perfect for the film. Camera work is deft. The viewer is made to feel that they are in the film without a constant barrage of super close-ups. The sets are an integral part of the story – attention to the mis-en-scène is an absolute viewer requirement. Lighting and color are used with clear meaning.
Does it have cliche’s at times? Yes, but it is all part of the charm. Like the film it depicts, the movie is made on a modest budget but never seems lacking. At first blush the movie does not appear to be of Oscar or Bafta level, but as you let it all seep in one wonders if it might not be a sleeper.