London, 1940. Bombs fall nightly in devastating Blitzkrieg air raids. A nation’s morale is at stake.
Lone Scherfig’s latest film, Their Finest, is not her finest. No, that remains the Danish-born director’s 2009 Oscar-nominated An Education. I suspect Their Best Available was, however, seen as a title that would have been rather harder to sell. Not that this a film short on selling points. Their Finest’s cast list alone boasts Gemma Arterton as its plucky heroine, alongside a well-cast ensemble comprised of Sam Claflin, Richard E. Grant, Rachel Stirling and Helen McCroy; not to mention, of course, its showpiece Bill Nighy, nailing the role of Bill Nighy. The problem is that Their Finest tries so hard not to descend to quaint sensibilities, as common in such WWII period fare (Dad’s Army most recently), that it does so at the expense of much attainable charm, exposing in the process an ultimately uninspired plot. Whilst Gaby Chiappe’s inaugural feature screenplay certainly hints at more biting possibilities, these moments are too few and far between to sustain any memorable momentum.
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Moonlight is a bold move by Medicine for Melancholy director, Barry Jenkins. Adopting an unrealised, semi-autobiographical, 2003 drama project by Tarell Alvin McCraney – In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue – as his inspiration, Jenkins’ film is a rejection of the hard line, socio-realist aesthetic, synonymous with depictions usually granted to similarly located films. Bringing to the production his own experiences as a child in Miami, Moonlight sees its director take the sun-kissed cinematography of Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund’s City of God, and infuse the picture with a beautifully Rococo, pastel palette. The effect jars perfectly. Grit and grime are painted in pinks, blues and greens which serve to express the visceral tension underlying this society within ‘the sunshine state’. The title is apt; what setting could better connote the fine line of romance and danger than one against moonlight?
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Three hundred years on from Silence and Andrew Garfield is still being persecuted for his religious beliefs. He is even still wrestling with his conscience and contemplating his relationship with God: ‘I pray to God and I like to think he hears me, it ain’t a conversation’. Indeed, one scene sees the army send in his fiancé, channelling Liam Neeson, to convince him to give in: ‘It’s pride and stubbornness – don’t confuse your will with the Lord’s’. No, this isn’t Silence 2: Still No Word from the Man Upstairs, this is Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge.
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In political boundaries, legacy is everything. As Donald Trump quite assiduously begins to dismantle that of Barack Obama in America, it’s a timely film that examines how it can be that those left behind may make or break the legend. This is the mantle taken by Chilean director Pablo Larraín in his first English-language film.
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