Their Finest, B
Rated R, 117 minutes
The lovely yet bittersweet romantic drama "Their Finest" is an underrated gem about the importance of not wasting your time, especially when it comes to relationships. While it takes some time to develop, a strong second half helps propel it to an emotionally satisfying ending (yes, that means you'll need some tissues along the way).
In 1940, a married woman named Catrin ("Quantum of Solace's" Gemma Arterton) and outspoken screenwriter Tom Buckley ("Me Before You's" Sam Claflin) develop a growing attraction while working together on a propaganda film about the evacuation of Allied troops from Dunkirk, France. With help from hammy, over-the-hill actor Ambrose Hilliard ("Love Actually's" Bill Nighy) and a nosy assistant ("Snow White and the Huntsmen's" Rachael Stirling), they contribute to what could be an important production in the life of their country, and their personal lives too.
"Their Finest" is a smart, witty romantic dramedy tinged with tragedy, and is directed by "An Education's" Lone Scherfig with a screenplay by Gaby Chiappe based on the nonfiction novel "Their Finest Hour and a Half" by British author Lissa Evans. It has a strong supporting cast and is distinctly British, which means there'll be a lot of dialogue, but the bittersweet story will draw you in slowly; the sluggish first act takes a little time to get going, which spends too much time in a couple of backstories: Catrin's relationship with her partner (Jack Huston) and Hilliard's challenges to find work.
The upside to the latter is that Nighy, a well-known character actor whose credits include "Love Actually" and "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," is terrific as the self-centered but talented actor who has seen better days, and he steals every scene he's in: "I am an actor..." and "I am pretty good..." are among his sharply delivered lines. As the couple whose attraction extends beyond the written paper, Arterton and Claflin share a warm chemistry that grows throughout the film. "Carol's" Jake Lacy, as a dense war hero who can't act, and "Harry Potter's" Helen McCrory, as Hilliard's pushy agent, round out the memorable supporting cast.
It's Stirling, as the opinionated feminist assistant, who delivers "Their Finest's" most pertinent line to Arterton that'll make you think: "...when life is so precarious, it seems so awful to waste it." On that note, this isn't without some tragedy, so come prepared with a few tissues; it's handsomely filmed and captures London World War II in solid detail, as well as old-school filmmaking. The music, scored by Rachel Portman ("A Dog's Purpose"), includes the pleasant ditty "You Can't Black Out the Moon," sung briefly in the film and heard again over the credits.
Don't waste time and let the poignant, inspiring "Their Finest" pass you by, it'll be worth your time.