Gemma Arterton is on shining form as a diffident young Welsh woman who lands a job with a unit making short propaganda films for the Ministry of Information at the height of the Blitz in Their Finest, an utterly winning comedy-drama from Danish director Lone Scherfig (An Education, The Riot Club).
Hired to write ‘the slop’, as dialogue between women is dismissively termed by her jaded writer colleague Buckley (Me Before You’s Sam Claflin), she ends up working on a morale-boosting feature film about the exploits of a couple of seafaring sisters during the Dunkirk evacuation.
“A cute dog and a strapping American”
The film within the film is hilarious. There are roles for a cute dog and a strapping American war hero (the dog’s the better actor), and for Bill Nighy’s vain, past-his-peak film star, aghast at being cast as the girls’ boozy uncle.
Yet for all the humour, the horror of war is never far away. Scherfig and debutant screenwriter Gabby Chiappe (adapting Lissa Evans’ Orange-nominated novel Their Finest Hour and a Half) keep us aware of the precariousness of life during war, even for those on the home front. And they make some sharp feminist points about the way men during WW2 hung on to their condescension even as they grudgingly allowed women to fill new roles.
Above all, though, Their Finest is joyous, uplifting fun.
Their Finest is showing this evening as The Mayor of London’s Gala at the Odeon Leicester Square at 7.15pm and also shows there tomorrow at 11.15 am and at the Ciné Lumiere on Saturday 15th October at 1pm.