Year Released: 2017
Directed by: Lone Scherfig
Starring: Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy
(R, 110 min.)
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
“You and me, given opportunities only because young men are gone. But to turn our back on those opportunities, wouldn’t that be giving death dominion over life?” Ambrose Hilliard
England after their retreat at Dunkirk and during the London Blitz. Bad times for Britain. This fine film explores one little known way they fought back.
No, it’s not some secret weapon or military strategy. It’s not even a slew of spies infiltrating the continent. It is a little wartime film engineered to lift the country’s morale.
Commissioned by the British Ministry of Information, the film must have “authenticity and optimism, “ two self-contradictory goals, according to Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin), the cynical writer in charge on writing the script. He needs Catrin Cole (Gema Arterton) to write the “slop,” the standard name for the “girl talk” or "women’s dialogue.”
The plucky Catrin isn’t particularly offended by the term. After all, she needs the money to support her penniless artist husband, and anyway, she thought she was only being hired to do secretarial work.
One true event seems promising, a newspaper account of two sisters who stole their father’s boat to rescue several soldiers stranded at Dunkirk. Catrin hunts them down for an interview only to find the story less than inspirational. The sisters are plain and almost mute, and their boat actually broke down before reaching Dunkirk. They merely received a few off-loaded soldiers from another boat and toted them back to England.
But just as in Hollywood, the muted greys of reality do not stop our intrepid screenwriters from creating good cinema. In fact, the story not only has the requisite authenticity and optimism, it also has a dog. Let the typing begin.
Along the way they will transform the drunken father into an uncle, whose role becomes bigger and better with the prodding of the fading cinema star who reluctantly takes the role. The actor, Ambrose Hilliard is played by the wonderful “Bill Nighy — a master scene-stealer pulling off yet another brazen heist." –Andrew Barker
And then there’s the need to include an American in the film, in spite of the fact that no Americans participated in the Dunkirk evacuation. After all, it is 1940, and Churchill is still trying to get the Americans to come to their aid. This film must convince American women to accept that sacrifice. A real American hero, one who has already volunteered for 58 flying missions for England, fits the bill perfectly. His face is made for the cameras. It is only when he reads his lines that we see that his talent is only skin deep.
Not to be defeated, they decrease his lines and enlist Ambrose as his drama coach, a role he accepts only after some considerable additions to his part.
Along the way, we gets a few acerbic quotes from Phyl Moore (Rachel Stirling) a Ministry official whose “steely determination, represented the women working as writers, producers and technicians as women fought for inclusion in the film industry.” –Janet Christy
She does not suffer fools gladly, labeling Buckley as “spawned in a pub out of sawdust.”
She also notes that, “A lot of men are scared we won’t go back into our boxes when this is over.”
But her acid wit is perhaps at its zenith when she assures Catrin that Hilliard won’t remember an earlier awkward meeting with her:
“He’s an actor. Unless you have interviewed him, had intercourse with him, or done both simultaneously, he won’t remember you.”
Like the propaganda film they produce, Their Finest includes a little bit of everything – comedy, satire, romance, and yes, tragedy, which comes sudden and unexpected out of the London skies.
You will laugh. You will cry. But you won’t be disappointed.
Catrin Cole, our intrepid wartime screenwriter, hales from Wales. Life in London offers many challenges. Not only the almost nightly bombings, but dealing with wartime rationing which severely restricted certain foods.
Today’s recipe for delicious Wartime Welsh Cakes is courtesy of Carolyn Ekins who created 100s of authentic ration book recipes to saves money and lose weight.
Here is the weekly ration allowance for one adult in the 1940’s…Rationed food was the food you were GUARANTEED to be able to get. (remember that in addition to this people were encouraged to incorporate lots of fruit and veggies into their diets and grow even more in their back gardens!)
Weekly ration for 1 adult
Bacon & Ham 4 oz
Meat to the value of 1 shilling and sixpence (around about 1/2 lb minced beef)
Butter 2 oz
Cheese 2 oz
Margarine 4 oz
Cooking fat 4 oz
Milk 3 pints
Sugar 8 oz
Preserves 1 lb every 2 months
Tea 2 oz
Eggs 1 fresh egg per week
Sweets/Candy 12 oz every 4 weeks
In addition to this a points system was put in place, which limited your purchase of tinned or imported goods. 16 points were available in your ration book for every 4 weeks and that 16 points would enable you to purchase for instance, 1 can of tinned fish or 2lbs of dried fruit or 8 lbs of split peas.
Wartime Welsh Cakes
6 oz plain flour with 3 teaspoons baking powder added (or use self raising flour)
2 oz margarine, butter or dripping
2 oz sultanas (or mixed dried fruit)
1 small carrot grated
2 oz sugar
1 fresh egg or 1 dried reconstituted egg
1 tablespoon milk
1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1 Rub fat into the flour and baking powder mix until resembles bread crumbs
2 Stir in nutmeg, sugar and dried fruit
3 Mix the egg and milk together and add to dry mix to form a stiff dough (add more liquid or more flour as needed)
4 Treat mixture as pastry and roll out on floured surface to 1/4 inch thick
5 Use 3 inch rounds to cut out
6 Pre-heat griddle or heavy frying pan
8 Put in Welsh Cakes and cook until golden brown on both sides over a moderate heat (about 4 minutes)
9 Set aside a cool
10 Sprinkle with a little sugar. Serve with butter/jam and a nice cuppa strong tea!