Set amid the chaos of London during the Blitz, Their Finest follows a young woman, Catrin (played by Gemma Arterton), as she carves her way through the screenwriting opportunities the war has thrown her way. Naturally, this film has a feminist vein running through its core but it’s depicted without any of the characters ever really acknowledging their own feminist agenda.
Catrin elevates the skills and qualities of the female characters within the Dunkirk based propaganda film she’s writing above those that have been previously depicted on screen; simultaneously raising her own career status and sense of worth in society. The film within the film very much acts as a metaphor for the happenings in Catrin’s own life but the whole thing relies on a sickly brand of feminism that’s repeatedly shoved down the viewer’s throat.
At one point Catrin makes the film (within the film)’s female protagonists fix a propeller which supposedly spurs their real life counterparts to realise that they could actually become mechanics. Isn’t it a tad insulting to insinuate that these women required a film to show them their own worth? Surely women have always known what they were capable of?
It also doesn’t help that Catrin is hard to like, she gets tangled in a needless love triangle that draws attention from her capabilities. The screenplay makes it tediously clear that she’s should be involved with her writing colleague (played by Sam Caflin) instead of her ‘husband’ with whom she’s been living; but Arterton didn’t really have any chemistry with either making it more disappointing that Catrin decides she needs to be with either of them at all.
Anyway, all of this gets wildly overshadowed by a great performance by Bill Nighy as the ageing star of the Dunkirk film. He’s effortlessly witty throughout and enjoys a marvellous, though somewhat brief, on screen pairing with Helen McCrory. They provide welcome relief as the final act of the film drags on and on, painfully searching for a suitable ending; multiple of which are present on screen but brushed aside in favour of trying too hard to tie up every single loose end and give every happening meaning.
Overall, Their Finest tries really hard to be an uplifting feminist piece, but at its best, it provides a lacklustre, superficial trajectory of the life of one woman that fails to clearly portray its overarching agenda. I give Their Finest a rating of 2.5/5.