7:30 PM, 22nd September, 2017
It’s June 1944, and Winston Churchill – the great man who gave courage to Britain and the Commonwealth in the dark days of the war – is being increasingly sidelined by Allied generals planning the D-Day landings in France.
He is a relic, for all he has done: a military man from the age of 19, war correspondent, inventor of the military tank, Nobel Prize winner, Navy Minister and then battalion commander in the trenches of WWI. Now, at 70 years old, he is arrogant with his ancestry and pride in the British Empire, and his sense of personal destiny.
Exhausted after five years of war and suffering a personal crisis, Churchill’s past triumphs and failures weigh heavily on him. Badgering the Allied generals and being soundly rebuked, he falls into one of his deep ‘black dog’ episodes. The mechanism by which the film depicts Churchill rousing himself to make one of his last great speeches to the nation must be artistic licence, but it’s effective.
This film is a good character study of a flawed-but-brilliant leader in a time of crisis. Its essence is dialogue, and Alex von Tunzelmann’s screenplay engages and holds the audience throughout. The wonderful Brian Cox owns the role, and Miranda Richardson is superb as his long-suffering wife, Clementine.
9:25 PM, 22nd September, 2017
With the men away fighting at the Front, opportunities arise during WWII that would not otherwise exist for women. Catrin Cole (Arterton) finds herself hired by the British Ministry of Information’s film unit as a ‘slop’ scriptwriter – a writer of women’s dialogue for morale-boosting propaganda films. Catrin’s flair for her work is quickly noticed by film producer Tom Buckley (Claflin), who recommends her for a bigger, more important project.
Tom, Catrin, a quirky gang of actors – including ageing matinee idol Ambrose Hilliard (played with scene-stealing aplomb by Bill Nighy) – and crew set about making a film about twin girls who filch their father’s fishing boat to help in the heroic evacuation of Dunkirk. But their task is complicated when the Ministry for War want to use it as a vehicle to help bring the Americans into the war. The film-within-a-film structure works well to show the immense collaborative effort that filmmaking involves, as well as revealing some of its conjuring magic.
Directed by Lone Scherfig, Their Finest is a funny, poignant and heartwarming film – a must-see or must-see again.