Back in the 1930s and 1940s movie studios used to hire women to write women’s dialogue, they never got any credit for dialogue as the male screenwriter usually retained all of the credit. However, when war arrived on the shores of Britain many men were called up to arms, leaving many male dominated jobs (factory work and script writing) left unfilled unless they were taken by women. Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) took on such a role, helping pen the next great British film to inspire the nation. The fictional film is about the Dunkirk evacuation, and the ‘true’ story of the two women who boarded their ship to assist in the Dunkirk evacuation. For Catrin, life on the studio set is rife with casual sexism, but Catrin slowly gets the respect of her co-writers, particularly Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin).
It’s almost ironic that the golden age of British cinema was during the country’s darkest hour. The war years saw the rise of the duo Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and other important directors such as David Lean and Carol Reed. Not only that, British cinema had never been more important to the British people. It acted as a chance to escape, to weep at the heroic actions of self-sacrifice, to swoon at the romantic love stories, and laugh as George Formby punched Hitler in the face. Lone Scherfig’s film is an ode to the importance of cinema in dark times, and the importance these propaganda films had in boosting the morale of the population.
The role the women played in the fictional Dunkirk film had a profound impact upon women, and like Millions Like Us, was used to inspire women to assist in the war effort. The importance of cinema to women, whose stock in the film industry did rise somewhat during this period, is well exemplified here as the film stressed the importance of cinema focused on the importance of women. Take for example in the film Went the Day Well where women were forced to defend their country from foreign invasion due the absence of men. Catrin’s determination and admirable stubbornness in ensuring her women have a vital role in the film had a profound impact on the film will be received.
For Catrin life on the set is made difficult by a prickly Tom Buckley. At first Catrin Cole’s relationship with Buckley is fraught with friction, but as the film goes on the two grow quite close. Whilst this romantic subplot is charming enough, it does detract from the main theme about the importance of the cinema in a time of war, but the chemistry Sam Claflin and Gemma Arterton share has enough spark to click with the audience effectively helping the film work on an emotional level. Gemma Arterton holds her own aganist a line up great English actors, including Richard E Grant, a Henry V quoting Jeremy Irons, and Bill Nighy who almost steals the show with his highly amusing and touching performance as a pompous actor iconic for a single role.
Their Finest is a fun film, funny when it needs to be, and poignant when the time calls for it