The comforting analog clack of typewriter keys is a leitmotif in Their Finest, Lone Scherfig's slight but appealing adaptation of Lissa Evans' novel Their Finest Hour and a Half (who knows why the subject of the original title was confusingly cast aside). In this tale of British filmmaking during World War II, Gemma Arterton plays Catrin Cole, a plucky young woman who finds work as a propaganda film screenwriter. The task of writing these scripts is presented grandiosely: Catrin receives the directive "We need a story to inspire a nation."
Stories to inspire a nation have long made up a sizable percentage of Hollywood schlock, and Their Finest deserves credit for exploring a woman's role in such an effort, as too many WWII films are strictly masculine stories in which women exist as quick-study love interests. Catrin is more than that, though her romantic trajectory is utterly predictable. A woman screenwriter at this time was considered a novelty, and while the film addresses this (she's hired to capture "the feminine experience"), Catrin's struggles never play like struggles. Typewriter keys get clicked, a paper of two is balled up in frustration and soon enough -- poof! -- a script appears.
The combined charms of Britishness and nostalgia often prove a potent blend for American moviegoers, but Their Finest could have delivered something more. The lead screenwriter, Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin), is bespectacled and sensitive, and he and Catrin engage in workplace banter that inevitably leads to a kiss. The fruit of their labor may not be particularly good, but a late scene in which Catrin finally watches her film with an adoring crowd is surprisingly poignant.