The combined charms of Britishness and nostalgia often prove a potent blend for American moviegoers, but Their Finest could have delivered something more.
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Director Lone Scherfig’s sentimental approach favours easy laughs and warm romance but the film starts to cut a little deeper in its closing stages.
Their Finest is the sort of crowd-pleaser that knows the difference between satisfying its viewers and flattering them, all the while showcasing surprising performances from Gemma Arterton and Sam Claflin, and an entirely unsurprising one from Bill Nighy — a master scene-stealer pulling off yet another brazen heist.
The movie makes a game attempt to resonate as something stronger than a typical period romance, wringing its wartime setting for all the pathos it can manage. But even the horrors of the Blitz feel too gentle here.
The romantic scenes are cute, but they feel at odds with the drama. The laughs land like chuckles, the love registers as mere fondness, and the salient observation that countries recast themselves during wartime is reduced to a fleeting detail.
While the strong ensemble cast is Their Finest's most valuable asset, the movie also looks quite handsome on what appears to be a modest budget, and includes some delightful glimpses of how screen effects were achieved way back in those handcrafted days.
But if Their Finest is a little stodgy and tasteful, it also possesses Scherfig’s trademark wistfulness.
Intimately focusing on its main character's personal triumphs, its refusing to fall into heavy-handed polemicism.
At its core, it’s really just a workplace love story that grows increasingly uninterested in its plucky heroine’s journey in favour of hitting familiar rom-com notes – and to give audiences another reason to love Bill Nighy.
The charming, rousing WWII romance Their Finest is a film that openly stumps for two causes: the value of women in the workplace, and the power of cinema to tell stories that people need to hear.