Their Finest  is a film about making films. More specifically, about making propaganda films during World War II. Former secretary, Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) is employed to write the ‘slop’ (women’s dialogue) for a production company, hoping to create a perfect propaganda film. Against the backdrop of London during the Blitz, she struggles with increasingly ridiculous demands from War offices, tempestuous actors and being the lone female writer in a room full of men.
Humor and Horror: One of the most wonderful things about this film is that, despite the dark period in which it is set, it’s brought to life by comedic touches. Watching Bill Nighy as formerly great actor Ambrose Hilliard come to terms with the fact that he’s no longer being cast as the young hero is particularly humorous, and his rapport with Catrin brings so much joy to the film. The dialogue is understated but really clever, and it’s carried by the performances of an absolutely stellar cast. Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin) is wonderfully dry and acerbic, and his banter with Catrin lights up the film. This comedy is well-balanced against the movie’s darker side. It doesn’t detract from the horrors of London’s Blitz or the War, but it brings these characters and their stories to life, and the touches of light make the film feel more realistic (and far more entertaining).
Understatement: Their Finest has some really excellent dialogue about movies and movie-making, one of which focused on the idea of understatement. In this case, understatement is regarded as a bad thing “what you see as understatement, American audiences will regard as lack of ‘oomph’”, but Their Finest itself is an excellent example of why understatement can work so well. It is a film that does not feel the need to stand and point its audience in the right direction, signposting when it is we need to feel pleased, sad, horrified; it does not bombard us with over-sentimentality. It works because the deaths of neighbors and friends, the destruction of homes and streets are embedded into the story and given a sense of normality. The slowly blossoming romance of Catrin and Buckley is also understated for the first half of the film and more charming for it, though it does take center stage during the second half.
Don’t Linger Longer: While the film is entertaining its pacing occasionally feels plodding. The film seems to linger for too long and suffers from unnecessary scenes. It can be difficult to make script-writing interesting and this becomes apparent quite quickly. Their Finest also lingers too long in its final moments. It often feels like it has reached a perfect ending point and then keeps going; this makes its ending (when it finally reaches it) far less impactful.
The stellar cast and clever humor of Their Finest gives the film real emotional impact, but the plodding pace makes it, overall, a bit of a mixed bag.