Their Finest

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Their Finest
Their Finest.jpg
British theatrical release poster
Directed by Lone Scherfig
Produced by
Screenplay by Gaby Chiappe
Based on Their Finest Hour and a Half
by Lissa Evans
Music by Rachel Portman
Cinematography Sebastian Blenkov
Edited by Lucia Zucchetti
Distributed by Lionsgate
Release date
  • 10 September 2016 (2016-09-10) (TIFF)
  • 21 April 2017 (2017-04-21) (United Kingdom)
Running time
117 minutes[1]
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Box office $12.1 million[2][3]

Their Finest is a 2016 British war comedy-drama film directed by Lone Scherfig and written by Gaby Chiappe, based on the 2009 novel Their Finest Hour and a Half by Lissa Evans. The film stars Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy, Jack Huston, Jake Lacy, Richard E. Grant, Henry Goodman, Rachael Stirling, Eddie Marsan, Helen McCrory, and Claudia Jessie. The film tells the story of a British Ministry of Information film team making a morale-boosting film about the Dunkirk evacuation during the Battle of Britain and the London Blitz.

Principal photography began early-September 2015 in London. It was screened at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival. It was released in the United Kingdom on 21 April 2017, by Lionsgate.[1]


The film is set in London in 1940. Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) is summoned to an interview at the Ministry of Information, where she is taken on to write script for short information films. Her husband Ellis Cole (Jack Huston) is a war artist, unable to get an exhibition and exempted from the call-up due to a Spanish Civil War leg wound - he is initially accepting of her job but when she becomes the only wage earner he begins to feel threatened and plans to send her back home to Wales, on the pretence of keeping her safe from the London Blitz.

After a clash with the actor Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy) when he asks for a change to one of her scripts, Catrin's superiors instead send her to research a news story about twin sisters Lily and Rose sailing their father's boat to take part in the Dunkirk evacuation. However, on meeting them she discovers that they in fact had engine trouble just off Southend-on-Sea shortly after setting off and were towed back into port by a tug which had taken part in the evacuation and so were mistakenly reported as reaching Dunkirk themselves. At risk of losing her Ministry job and being sent back to Wales, Catrin lies to her superiors and they agree to make the film as "The Nancy Starling", with Catrin, Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin) and Raymond Parfitt (Paul Ritter) as the scriptwriters. They begin to write a scenario and - even when their superiors discover the deception - convince them to continue with its production as fictional film rather than a factual one.

Hilliard is offered the part of a drunken uncle named "Uncle Frank" in the film by his agent Sammy (Eddie Marsan). He initially refuses it out of pride but, after Sammy's death in an air-raid, he is reluctantly won over by Sammy's sister Sophie (Helen McCrory), who has taken over his agency work. Initial location photography begins but rapid rewrites prove necessary when an American character is added on the orders of the Secretary of War (Jeremy Irons) to give the film appeal in the USA. The Secretary also orders that the character be played by Carl Lundbeck (Jake Lacy), a handsome Norwegian-American pilot from one of the Eagle Squadrons who proves photogenic in silent film but unable to act in 'talkies'. The film is saved, however, by judicious editing and by Catrin convincing Hilliard to give Lundbeck acting lessons in return for improvements to Hilliard's part.

Catrin and Buckley develop a combative friendship and affection during the location filming, but the filming delays cause her to miss the opening of her husband's war art exhibition. Just before leaving to see the exhibition's final day, Catrin reveals to another member of the crew that she is in fact Ellis' long-term lover and not his wife, having only taken his name for the sake of propriety. She ran away with him and the ring she wears on her left hand is one purchased by her. On returning to their home in London, she finds Ellis having sex with a younger woman (Natalia Ryumina) and breaks up with him, returning to Devon. Buckley has found out about the nature of Catrin's 'marriage' and he proposes to her, but she refuses and they argue. Soon after arriving in London for interior photography, however, Catrin changes her mind and the two share a passionate kiss, just before a stagehand asks Catrin to come answer a query from Hilliard about rewriting his character. Buckley goes to answer it instead of Catrin, but on his way there he turns to look back at Catrin and is killed by a falling lighting rig. Lundbeck returns to his air squadron, leaving them with no-one to fix the propellor for the movie.

A more US-audience-friendly ending is added and a gap in the film is filled by Catrin's suggestion that one of the twins, Rose, fixes the boat's fouled propeller rather than one of the male characters - a change she had suggested from the very start. In shock and grief, Catrin withdraws from the world of film but a visit from Hilliard convinces her to return, in part to write him fulfilling parts such as a cat burglar air-raid warden, now that he has accepted that he can no longer play matinee idol parts. She attends a screening of her film and sees a clip of her and Buckley has been added to the ending. After speaking to two moved members of the audience, she sits down to write her next film.


Behind the scenes[edit]

Actors in "The Nancy Starling"[edit]


On 14 April 2015 it was announced that Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, and Bill Nighy would star in the World War II–set romantic comedy film based on the 2009 novel Their Finest Hour and a Half by Lissa Evans.[4] BBC Films developed the film, hiring Lone Scherfig to direct the film which was adapted by Gaby Chiappe. BBC Films would co-finance the film, which Number 9 Films and Wildgaze Films would produce with its Stephen Woolley and Amanda Posey, while HanWay Films would handle the international rights.[4] On 10 September 2015 Jack Huston and Jake Lacy joined the film along with Richard E. Grant, Helen McCrory, Eddie Marsan, Rachael Stirling, and Henry Goodman.[5] The production was financially supported by the Welsh Government's "Media Investment Budget".[6]


Principal photography on the film began in early September 2015, in London[7][8] and was partly shot in Pembrokeshire.[9] Many of the scenes were shot at the iconic Guildhall and Grand Theatre, Swansea.


In May 2015, Lionsgate acquired UK distribution rights to the film.[10] The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on 10 September 2016.[11][12] Shortly after, EuropaCorp acquired the distribution rights to the film in the United States and France.[13] STX Entertainment will distribute the film for EuropaCorp.[14]

On 13 October 2016, Their Finest celebrated its European premiere at the BFI London Film Festival.[15][16] The film was scheduled to be released in the United States on 24 March 2017[17] but was pushed back to 7 April 2017.[18] It was released in the United Kingdom on 21 April 2017.[1]

Critical response[edit]

On the review-aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 87%, based on 117 reviews, with an average rating of 7.1/10.[19] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 76 out of 100, based on 26 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[20]

In the British press, Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian called the character of Hilliard "a colossally proportioned scene-stealer" and wrote that "Arterton brings a rather beautiful kind of restraint to her role".[21] Wendy Ide of the Observer praised the "rattling, screwball rhythm" of Catrin and Tom's "banter" but noted that some of the plot could have been "more persuasively developed" and that without the twist of Tom's death the film "could have torpedoed itself with predictability". However, she praised that twist as the film's "boldest decision... [which robs] the audience of an outcome we are expecting in a way that nobody sees coming", as well as calling the " film-within-a-film structure ... a neat device".[22]

Geoffrey Macnab of the Independent wrote that "Some of the in-jokes begin to grate" but called Arterton's performance "well-judged and engaging" and noted the "scene-stealing antics" of Nighy, Lacy and Irons, particularly lauding Hilliard's shift from "comic buffoon ... [to] depth and pathos".[23] Robbie Collin of the Telegraph called it a "handsome, rousing, rigorous entertainment you can’t help but play along with" and "Sparklingly adapted", with "bristly chemistry" between the two leads. He noted Scherfig's direction, with the "broad and rosy spoof" of the film-within-a-film and the gender inequalities of the period left "to squirm away unhindered in the subtext" rather than countered with anachronistic "spiky comebacks".[24]


  1. ^ a b c "Their Finest (12A)". British Board of Film Classification. 25 October 2016. Retrieved 25 October 2016. 
  2. ^ "Their Finest (2017)". The Numbers. July 28, 2017. Retrieved August 1, 2017. 
  3. ^ "Their Finest (2017)". Box Office Mojo. June 22, 2017. Retrieved August 1, 2017.  BOM reports only $3.6MM domestic. Foreign total gross not updated.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Barraclough, Leo (14 April 2015). "Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin to Star in Lone Scherfig’s ‘Their Finest Hour and a Half’". Retrieved 25 October 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Tartaglione, Nancy (10 September 2015). "Jack Huston, Jake Lacy Join ‘Their Finest Hour And A Half’ – First Look Photo". Retrieved 25 October 2015. 
  6. ^ Newsroom (9 September 2016). "Starring role for stunning Welsh locations as Their Finest gets the red carpet treatment at global film premiere". Welsh Government. Retrieved 26 April 2017. 
  7. ^ "Gemma Arterton showcases her timeless beauty in 1940s ensemble as she gets to work on movie Their Finest Hour and a Half". 8 September 2015. Retrieved 25 October 2015. 
  8. ^ Evry, Max (16 September 2015). "Sam Claflin and Gemma Arterton Photos from Their Finest Hour and a Half Set". Retrieved 25 October 2015. 
  9. ^ Rachael Misstear (9 October 2015). "Gemma Arterton, Bill Nighy, and Sam Claflin are among the stars in Pembrokeshire filming their latest movie". Wales online. Retrieved 10 May 2016. 
  10. ^ Jaafar, Ali (13 May 2015). "Lionsgate Acquires UK Rights On ‘Their Finest Hour And A Half’ From Hanway Films – Cannes". Retrieved 25 October 2015. 
  11. ^ "Their Finest". Toronto International Film Festival. Retrieved 26 July 2016. 
  12. ^ "Toronto To Open With ‘The Magnificent Seven’; ‘La La Land’, ‘Deepwater Horizon’ Among Galas & Presentations". Deadline. 26 July 2016. Retrieved 26 July 2016. 
  13. ^ Fleming Jr, Mike (14 September 2016). "‘Their Finest’ In Big EuropaCorp Deal – Toronto". Retrieved 14 September 2016. 
  14. ^ Fleming Jr, Mike; Busch, Anita (3 January 2017). "STX Lands Luc Besson’s ‘Valerian’ And Other EuropaCorp Titles In 3-Year Pact; RED Hit With Massive Layoffs". Retrieved 3 January 2017. 
  15. ^ Colley, Tess (13 October 2016). "Their Finest press conference with Gemma Arterton, Bill Nighy and Lone Scherfig". The Upcoming. Retrieved 18 May 2017. 
  16. ^ BFI London Film Festival (5–16 October 2016). "Film Festival Calendar 2016" (PDF). British Film Institute. Retrieved 18 May 2017. 
  17. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (17 October 2016). "‘Their Finest’ To Close Santa Barbara Int’l Film Fest, Sets March Release Date". Retrieved 17 October 2016. 
  18. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (26 January 2017). "‘Their Finest’, ‘Free Fire’ & ‘Land Of Mine’ Target New Dates". Retrieved 26 January 2017. 
  19. ^ "Their Finest (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 21 April 2017. 
  20. ^ "Their Finest reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 21 April 2017. 
  21. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (20 April 2017). "Their Finest - review". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 April 2017. 
  22. ^ Ide, Wendy (23 April 2017). "Their Finest - review". The Observer. Retrieved 25 April 2017. 
  23. ^ Macnab, Geoffrey (19 April 2017). "Their Finest - review". The Independent. Retrieved 25 April 2017. 
  24. ^ Collin, Robbie (20 April 2017). "Their Finest - review". The Telegraph. Retrieved 25 April 2017. 

External links[edit]