I decided to watch the movie “Their Finest” because of its claim about the British sense of humour. Eager to appreciate the witty dialogue, I was all ears right from the very start. I did not disregard the Chinese subtitles completely, though. Taking care of both languages at the same time could be a bit tiring especially when there were so many details to take in for a good understanding of the story as a whole. But it was worth all the while. I enjoyed the dialogue and regret my inability to remember some of the witty lines.
“Their Finest” is a movie-within-a movie. It is a period piece (1940). During the London Blitz of World War II, Catrin Cole, the leading actress, is recruited by the British Ministry of Information to write scripts for propaganda films from a woman’s perspective. The entire movie is about the formulation of the script ideas and how the script undergoes reconstruction as the movie shooting is in progress. It’s interesting how the script writers, Catrin Cole and Tom Buckley, communicate with each other and with the other crew members about the best presentation of the story. Ideas and dialogue work out among the team and wittiness is often what each of them needs to win the others over in an argument. There are thus plentiful comic moments. And it is Ambrose Hilliard, the one playing the role of 'Uncle Frank', an old actor, who carries most of the wit and humour of the film. Though wearing a sober look on his lined face, he brings laughter almost every time he starts talking. One of his best quotes is: “I can mime smoking but I can’t mime smoke.’
It is the time when London is under nightly attack by the Luftwaffe, but the film is not intended to cause fear or bring tears to your eyes. Though deaths of known characters are reported from time to time, the work of script writing goes on unhindered. Tom Buckley is once seen writing the script on the typewriter when German planes start bombarding London with bombs again. Little disturbed, he simply turns the volume of the radio up to cover the air-raid siren. Everyone seems to have learned to live with such chaos for, though sad at the losses, they know well that life must go on. Is this one of the inspirations for us, people who take a peaceful lifestyle for granted?
“Their Finest” also has some romance in it, though the romantic part seems to come a bit too late. Shortly after the two script writers have declared their love for each other, Tom Buckley is knocked down by a fallen shelf and dies instantly in front of her very eyes. Such a tragedy comes as a heart attack. But the movie still lives up to its claim as a comedy and will not allow the audience to leave with a heavy heart. 'Uncle Frank' pays a visit to Catrin Cole, who is too grieved to get back to her script writing. He says something about ‘death not being supposed to dominate life (the exact words are lost) ’. And after his departure, the lady cheers up miraculously. She is soon found to be watching the film, the one for which she has written the script, tearfully and smilingly, with satisfaction and pride on the face. The movie is a tremendous success. She resumes the work of script writing, with Tom Buckley in her heart as if he were still there working with her, sharing a hope to contribute something meaningful in this time of war and in their own lives.
The movie is a must- see. I recommend watching it twice, once to enjoy the story itself and the second time for the pure enjoyment of the beauty of the script, if, like me, you are interested in something with a Britsh sense of humour.