Their Finest

Their Finest (2016) on IMDb
Director: Lone Scherfig; stars Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy, Jack Huston, Helen McCrory, Eddie Marsden, Jake Lacy, Richard E Grant. Cert 12A. 117 mins.

London, 1940. Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) is called to the Ministry of Information and employed to work on wartime propaganda films. Struggling to survive and support her painter husband, Ellis (Jack Huston), Catrin accepts and is soon engaged an a major morale boosting movie, based on newspaper reports of two young women who steal their father’s boat and join the flotilla to Dunkirk, rescuing retreating soldiers.

Catrin is dispatched to interview Lily and Rose Starling about their ordeal only to discover most of their story was fabricated by the press. Undeterred Catrin presents their story as fact and the scriptwriters are given the green light to proceed. Catrin is faced with the belligerence of fellow scribe Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin) with whom there is a spark of attraction. Much of what follows is fairly predictable – the on, off relationship with Tom, her imploding relationship with Ellis and the eventual success of ‘The Nancy Starling’.

The beauty of Lone Scherfig’s film is that issues around patriarchy are understated. Discrimination is subtly highlighted. When interviewed Catrin is offhandedly informed by Roger Swain (Richard E Grant) “Obviously we can’t pay you as much as the chaps.” On set Hilliard mistakes Catlin for an autograph hunter while colleague Tom informs her she is to write the ‘slop’, the women’s dialogue, implying this is less important that the men’s dialogue. Women have to be kept in their place, a fact made implicit by Phyl Moore (Rachael Stirling), the dominant PA openly identified as lesbian, who tells Catrin “They’re afraid they won’t be able to put us back in the box when this is over, and it makes them belligerent.” Phyl appears perfectly relaxed in displaying her sexuality and while lesbianism is mentioned several times in the movie gay men are surprisingly absent from this creative endeavour.

Lucy Bevan deserves mention for assembling a stellar cast. Gemma Arterton is perfectly cast as wide-eyed ingenue Catrin Cole and her bristling chemistry with Sam Claflin, whose cynicism as lead writer shines through, is evident in their scenes together. Bill Nighy’s Ambrose Hilliard, a washed up thespian with the delusion he is still a matinee idol, steals every scene he is in even when pouting in the background. Scriptwriter Gaby Chiappe gives Nighy some of the movies best lines which he delivers effortlessly. The wonderful Richard E Grant, Jeremy Irons, Eddie Marsden and Helen McCrory liven up proceedings either as belligerent officials or Hilliard’s agents.

Their Finest, based on the novel Their Finest Hour and a Half by Lissa Evans, smoothly combines comedy and wartime drama. A finely acted, funny feel-good movie that illustrates the spirit of war time Britain.

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The Sense of an Ending

The Sense of an Ending (2017) on IMDb
Director: Ritesh Batra; stars Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling, Harriet Walter, Michelle Dockery, Matthew Goode, Emily Mortimer, James Wilby, Edward Holcroft, Freyor Mavor, Joe Alwyn. Cert 15. 108 mins

Tony Webster (Jim Broadbent), separated from his wife Margaret (Harriet Walter), becomes infatuated with long-lost love Veronica (Charlotte Rampling) who refuses to deliver a diary that has been bequeathed to Tony. Tony’s infatuation with Veronica starts after the reading of the will and is in sharp contrast to his ambivalence towards his wife and daughter that appears long established. He shows little interest in Margaret’s health or the fact that his daughter, Susie (Michelle Dockery), is due to give birth at any moment. Throughout Webster is totally self-absorbed in his own meagre issues. It is only after Veronica reappears that Tony shows any spark of life and it is remarkable that both Margaret and Veronica, both who appear highly intelligent, give Tony the time of day.

Jim Broadbent’s portrayal of Tony is both nuanced and disturbing. It is a role the actor does well, playing simple-minded, befuddled characters. Throughout Tony appears nothing but a buffoon whose priorities are constantly misplaced. Events take on a somewhat sinister turn and, even though being constantly told of his inappropriate behaviour, Tony is unable to comprehend the seriousness of his action. And herein lies his own unrecognisable truth in that he continually adopts a course of action that has the potential to cause harm to others. Harriet Walter is well cast as Tony’s long suffering wife Margaret who has long ago learned to cease any dialogue when he gets out of hand. Walter is in stark contrast to the brilliant Charlotte Rampling who, as Veronica, has the ability to say everything with just a look or a gesture. Both women will not suffer fools gladly and are like predatory felines playing with an unsuspecting mouse. Thrown into the mix is Michelle Dockery who has escaped the confines of costume drama to breathe life into contemporary characters. Dockery completes the trio of strong, self-willed women all of whom are able to clearly see Tony’s foibles. Of the three it is Susie who is most accepting of her father’s miscalculations and is able to accept his antics.

Dockery’s ex-suitor from Downton Abbey, Matthew Goode appears in cameo as tutor Mr Hunt while James Wilby portrays Veronica’s father, David Ford. The movie is based on a short story by Julian Barnes and has been adapted by Nick Payne. Director Ritesh Batra carefully draws out the nuances of these failed intellectuals showing a class system teetering on the brink of irrelevance. What he does so well is integrate London into the narrative so that the city appears as a character in its own right.

Being totally honest I have to admit to being a little bored at the start of this movie as the narrative interweaves past and present in detailing the intricacies of Tony Webster’s life. However this narrative concept works well to illustrate Webster’s mediocre world in which he believes his actions have no consequences even though the catalyst for all that happens stems from one ill-timed intervention. The eventual denouement is so subtle that it took a couple of minutes for the penny to drop and fully realise the extent of deceit on all sides. This was in part due to being confused as to the identities of several characters as the narrative skips between past and present.

Worth watching for Jim Broadbent’s exemplary performance matched by the reserved coolness of Charlotte Rampling’s portrayal of Veronica.

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Viceroy’s House

Viceroy's House (2017) on IMDb
Director: Gurinder Chadha. Stars Hugh Bonneville, Gillian Anderson, Manish Dayal, Huma Qureshi, Michael Gamdon, Om Puri, Lily Travers, Simon Williams.

The resplendent Viceroy’s House was the impressive residence of the Viceroy’s of India and is now known as the Rashtrapati Bhavan (Presidential Residence) and is the official home of the President of India. Overwhelmed at the 340-room house, Lady Edwina

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Patriot’s Day

Patriots Day (2016) on IMDb
Director: Peter Berg. Stars Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon, J.K. Simmons, Michelle Monaghan. Cert. 15.  133 mins.

Patriot’s Day tells of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the aftermath that involved a city-wide shut down as the search for the terrorists responsible was underway. Peter Berg both directed and co-wrote the screenplay with Matt Cook and Joshua Zetumer. The

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Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures (2016) on IMDb
Director: Theodore Melfi. Stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali, Glen Powell. Cert. PG. 127 mins.

This is a gem of a movie that not only entertains but is also informative. Now call me dumb but it was only when I saw the trailer for this movie that I was aware that african/american woman were employed at NASA in the 1950’s. In fact I didn’t realise women worked there

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The Great Wall

The Great Wall (2016) on IMDb
Director: Yimou Zhang. Stars Matt Damon, Pedro Pascal, Tian Jing, Eddie Peng, Willem Dafoe, Pilou Asbæk. Cert. 12A. 103 mins.

The film opens with mercenaries William and Tovar being chased through a barren landscape. Both men are in search of the mysterious black powder which they will then sell for a profit. Director Zhang maintains a low-key palette of dust-infused muted browns and

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Gold

Gold (2016) on IMDb
Director: Stephen Gaghan. Stars Matthew McConaugheyEdgar RamírezBryce Dallas Howard, Corey Stoll, Toby Kebbell, Craig T. Nelson. Cert. 15. 120 mins.

Without doubt, Matthew McConaughey is one of Hollywood’s most attractive leading men and this may be why, rather than trade on his good looks, the actor prefers his talent to shine through and selects his roles carefully. In Free State of Jones (2016) he is almost

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Denial

Denial (2016) on IMDb

Director: Mick Jackson; stars Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Spall, Andrew Scott, Karen Pistorius, Alex Jennings, Harriet Walter, Mark Gatiss.  Cert. 12A.  109 mins.

As the film begins Deborah Lipstadt asks a group of students what proof is there that the holocaust happened? Sitting in the audience is holocaust denier David Irving, whose work and reputation Lipstadt has constantly challenged. Irving challenges Lipstadt to debate the

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Hacksaw Ridge

Hacksaw Ridge (2016) on IMDb
Directed by Mel Gibson. Stars Andrew Garfield, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths, Teresa Palmer, Nathaniel Buzolic, Vince Vaughn. 139 mins.

Hacksaw Ridge is the inspirational story of Desmond Doss, an army medic who fought for the right to go into battle without a single weapon to protect himself. In the heat of conflict Doss single-handedly saved 75 comrades without firing a single shot and was subsequently awarded the Medal of Honor.

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Manchester by the Sea

Manchester by the Sea (2016) on IMDb

Written & Directed by Kenneth Lonergan. Stars Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Lucas Hedges, Kyle Chandler, Oscar Wahlberg, Gretchen Mol, Kara Hayward, Anna Baryshnikov. 137 mins.

Finally I have managed to see Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea and what a rewarding experience it is. I must admit to two reasons I initially dismissed this film as

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