London, 1940. At the height of the Blitz, the Ministry of Information, Film Division, brings in scriptwriter Catrin Cole (the always marvelous Gemma Arterton: The Girl with All the Gifts) to punch up the “slop” — you know, the girly stuff, the women’s dialogue — of its propaganda pictures. The ministry is particularly eager that one new film will appeal to Americans — and to American mothers and wives — and get them gung-ho to send their sons and husbands off to join the war in Europe. (That film is a very loosely based-on-fact melodrama about the evacuation of Dunkirk, and so Their Finest makes a nice early companion to Christopher Nolan’s upcoming action drama about that same event.)
Amidst all the delightful dry and snarky movie satire, especially centering around Bill Nighy’s (The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) hilarious over-the-hill matinee idol and Sam Claflin’s (Me Before You) snarky screenwriter, is some very sharp feminist commentary about how men are perfectly willing to harness women’s talents and enthusiasm as long as the guys can demean the gals at the same time: “Obviously we can’t pay you as much as the chaps,” Catrin is informed on her first day. (Catrin’s artist husband does not like his wife doing such crass work… though he’s perfectly happy to let her support him while he paints.)
Director Lone Scherfig (The Riot Club) brings her usual witty and keenly observant eye to this snappy dramedy, and the brilliant cast — also featuring Jake Lacy (Miss Sloane) as an American RAF volunteer roped into being an actor — is jovial and touching in equal measure. Based on Lissa Evans’s novel Their Finest Hour and a Half, this one is a real corker.