Their Finest

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Their Finest
Their Finest.jpg
British theatrical release poster
Directed byLone Scherfig
Produced by
Screenplay byGaby Chiappe
Based onTheir Finest Hour and a Half
by Lissa Evans
Music byRachel Portman
CinematographySebastian Blenkov
Edited byLucia Zucchetti
Distributed byLionsgate UK
Release date
  • 10 September 2016 (2016-09-10) (TIFF)
  • 21 April 2017 (2017-04-21) (United Kingdom)
Running time
117 minutes[1]
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office$12.3 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 during the time after Dunkirk when the Battle of Britain is turning into the Blitz. The British government is desperately seeking to shore up morale of the general population and pursuing a long strategy of getting the US to join the war and defeat Hitler. The Ministry of Information used artistic talent to pursue these ends.


In 1940 London, Catrin Cole is taken on at the Ministry of Information to write film scripts with a convincing female angle. Their previous efforts have not caught the public's imagination. Her husband, Ellis, is a war artist.

Catrin researches a story about twins Lily and Rose Starling, who participated in the Dunkirk evacuation. She discovers they did not in fact reach Dunkirk because their boat had broken down five miles off Southend-on-Sea, and was towed back by a tug returning from the evacuation - but they did take soldiers on board as the tug was over-crowded which is how the story got in the papers.

Ellis tells Catrin he cannot afford to keep her with him in London. She insists she can pay her way, although her current wage is less than a man's.

There are arguments in the script room as Catrin wants to show the bravery of the sisters whereas her male colleagues want to make a fictional soldier boyfriend the hero of the story. At the ministry, Catrin omits the breakdown of the boat in her account as someone suggests the engine failure may be morale sapping for British engineering. The film is given the go-ahead with scriptwriters Tom Buckley, Raymond Parfitt and Catrin as writers. The film is given the name "The Nancy Starling" after the boat, in turn named for the twins' mother.

Catrin buys a painting from Ellis, saying she is not leaving London. The writing team is visited by Roger Swain, head of film at the ministry who has learned about the boat's breakdown and is considering pulling the film because it is claimed to be based on a true story when it is not. Buckley retorts that they shouldn't say it's based on a true story, then—rather that it's based on a hundred, or a thousand, true stories. Parfitt suggests 338,000, being the number of soldiers who were brought back. Swain is convinced. Rather than have the boat engine fail they decide its propellor must get caught in weeds. The men want the boyfriend soldier to dive in and free it. Cathrin objects as he is supposed to be injured.

Ellis receives a commission to document bomb damage in the provinces followed by an exhibition at the National Gallery. Catrin says she will come for the exhibition opening.

Actor Ambrose Hilliard is offered the comedic part of aged, drunken Uncle Frank by his agent, Sammy Smith. He refuses out of pride, but, after Sammy's death in an air raid, Hilliard is persuaded by Sammy's sister Sophie, who has taken over the agency. She points out that there is very little work for actors and especially for someone his age. She will not keep an unprofitable actor on the books.

Filming begins in Devon. Rewrites accommodate an American character added by order of the Secretary of State for War to appeal to the United States whom they were trying to entice as an ally. The pilot employed is a terrible actor and the script must be changed once again. Hilliard does not want to coach him but agrees to when Catrin suggests making his character have a more emotional role rather than just being the 'drunk uncle'. Now he will free the propellor of weed and then, as he dies, imagine that the two soldiers are his sons, who were killed in the First World War.

Because of the extra work, Catrin misses Ellis' exhibition opening. Before leaving to see the exhibition's final day, Catrin reveals to Phyl that she and Ellis are not married but pretend to be for propriety. In London, she walks in on Ellis having sex with another woman and returns to Devon.

Buckley has found out about Catrin's non-marriage. He proposes to her, but she refuses and they argue. Back in London for the studio scenes, Buckley has been unable to write a satisfactory ending. Catrin spends all night in the office writing the ending, and then types out a mock script of their quarrel making her warm feelings for him clear. She finds her home has been destroyed by a bomb in the night.

At the studio some staff are missing, affected by the bombing. Buckley arrives, having read Catrin's new ending and mock script. They talk, and kiss. He approves of the new ending. Catrin is then called to tweak the script, but Buckley says he will deal with it. As he walks away, a lighting rig collapses and the lights go out. When power is restored, Buckley is dead beneath the rig. Others are injured.

The film sequence of the freeing of the boat's propellor has not been completed (it was to be freed by the boyfriend character once the uncle had failed) and it seems there is no actor now available. The American has returned to pilot duties, Ambrose is in hospital in plaster and the actor playing the boyfriend is on naval duty. Catrin suggests that Rose do it (which she had wanted from the start).

Sophie Smith visits her client Hilliard in hospital and brings him offers of work. She also proposes that he recuperate in her home. There is an element of flirtation or at least care in her words.

Catrin's absence is noted at the premiere. Hilliard visits Catrin to enlist her writing help in a new film. She tells him the real twins have run away from their bully of a father and joined the ATS. Catrin also says she cannot write any more and breaks down crying. He tells her that both he and she have been given opportunities because young men are dying, and to deny those opportunities is to give death dominion over life. He advises her to watch their film. She does, and is moved by the film and the audience's reactions. She returns to the scriptwriters' office to work on the new film.


The main story

Actors in Carrot Film

Actors in "The Nancy Starling"


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] Locations used included: in Pembrokeshire, Freshwater West beach - which stood in for Dunkirk - Porthgain harbour, the Trecwn valley, and the Cresselly Arms at Cresswell Quay; in Swansea, the Guildhall and Grand Theatre; and in London, Bedford Square in Bloomsbury.[8][9]


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 90%, based on 163 reviews, with an average rating of 7.19/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Carried along by a winning performance from Gemma Arterton, Their Finest smoothly combines comedy and wartime drama to crowd-pleasing effect."[19] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 76 out of 100, based on 30 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[20]

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". 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. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ "Their Finest (2017)". The Numbers. 10 August 2017. Retrieved 20 August 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ "Their Finest (2017)". Box Office Mojo. 22 June 2017. Retrieved 20 August 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link) 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. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  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. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  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. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ Evry, Max (16 September 2015). "Sam Claflin and Gemma Arterton Photos from Their Finest Hour and a Half Set". Retrieved 25 October 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ "Movie premiere will show Pembrokeshire locations at 'Their Finest'". Western Telegraph. 11 April 2017. Retrieved 1 July 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  9. ^ "Their Finest used London's Bloomsbury for wartime setting". the location guide. 26 April 2017. Retrieved 1 July 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  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. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  11. ^ "Their Finest". Toronto International Film Festival. Retrieved 26 July 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  12. ^ "Toronto To Open With 'The Magnificent Seven'; 'La La Land', 'Deepwater Horizon' Among Galas & Presentations". Deadline. 26 July 2016. Retrieved 26 July 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  13. ^ Fleming Jr, Mike (14 September 2016). "'Their Finest' In Big EuropaCorp Deal – Toronto". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 14 September 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  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". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 3 January 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  15. ^ Colley, Tess (13 October 2016). "Their Finest press conference with Gemma Arterton, Bill Nighy and Lone Scherfig". The Upcoming. Retrieved 18 May 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  16. ^ BFI London Film Festival (5–16 October 2016). "Film Festival Calendar 2016" (PDF). British Film Institute. Retrieved 18 May 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  17. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (17 October 2016). "'Their Finest' To Close Santa Barbara Int'l Film Fest, Sets March Release Date". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 17 October 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  18. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (26 January 2017). "'Their Finest', 'Free Fire' & 'Land Of Mine' Target New Dates". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 26 January 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  19. ^ "Their Finest (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 21 April 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  20. ^ "Their Finest reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 21 April 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  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]