Archive for the ‘Lone Scherfig’ Category

The Nancy Starling

Their Finest

Director: Lone Scherfig

Cast: Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy, Jack Huston, Richard E. Grant, Jeremy Irons, Jake Lacy, Eddie Marsan, Helen McCrory, Rachael Stirling

Danish director Lone Scherfig delivers another nuanced and unexpectedly unsettling film, Their Finest featuring a superb performance by Gemma Arterton (The Prince of Persia, Quantum of Solace) in one of her best roles yet. Director of The Riot Club, One Day and An Education, Scherfig is brilliant at capturing the peculiarities of the British social system, exemplified in The Riot Club and perfected in her latest film, Their Finest.

Set in 1940 during the Blitz, while London was being mercilessly bombed by the Germans at the beginning of World War II, Their Finest focuses on the art of propaganda about Arterton who is asked to become a scriptwriter on a film aimed to boosted the morale of the British public particularly from a woman’s perspective when most of the men were being conscripted to fight the war.

Arterton plays the feisty Welsh woman Caitrin Cole whose relationship with a struggling artist Ellis Cole played by Jack Huston (Ben-Hur, The Riot Club) is precarious at best. Caitrin’s co-writer is the cynical Tom Buckley wonderfully played by Sam Claflin (Me Before You) who keeps on advising her to trim the fat on any story which appears too verbose.

The story in question is how twin sisters managed to save some Allied soldiers off the French coast during the Dunkirk evacuation aboard their father’s fishing vessel The Nancy Starling.

The embellishment of the story and its natural progression to a morale boosting piece of cinema, aptly named The Nancy Starling is the task of Caitlyn and Tom who has to contend not only with the vested interests of the Ministry of Information represented by Roger Swain wonderfully played by Richard E. Grant but also the War Ministry represented by the Secretary of War played by Oscar winner Jeremy Irons (The Reversal of Fortune).

What elevates the grim narrative of Their Finest, a city under siege with Londoners being randomly killed off during incessant bombings is the appearance of fading film star Ambrose Hilliard acidly played with dark humour by character actor Bill Nighy (Love Actually, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Pride).

There are some precious moments between Nighy and his new agent Sophie Smith played by Helen McCrory who takes over Hilliard’s career after her brother Sammy Smith, a brief cameo by Eddie Marsan, is unexpectedly killed in the bombings.

Based upon the novel by Lissa Evans entitled “Their Finest Hour and a Half”, Their Finest is a remarkably interesting war film about the art of propaganda, the process of scripting a film and a precarious love triangle, particularly noticeable when thwarted affections develop between Tom Buckley and Caitrin Cole.

The only criticism is that Their Finest could have been edited more efficiently as the dramatic pace of the film lags at times and this efficiency in getting the story across would have prevented the narrative from becoming slightly repetitive and drawn out.

Yet despite its imperfections, Gemma Arterton and Sam Claflin are brilliant as the young creative screenwriters trying to negotiate a budding romance amidst their own artistic differences.

Audiences should look out for a particularly tart performance by Diana Rigg’s daughter Rachael Stirling as the propaganda film’s sharp tongued production secretary Phyl Moore.

Their Finest as a wartime dramatic comedy gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10. This witty and poignant British film will be enjoyed by those that share the English sentiment of stoically soldiering on in the face of burdening hardships without resorting to emotional melodrama. Which is what the British did during the Blitz.

 

Raising Debauchery to an Art Form

The Riot Club

riot_club

Director: Lone Scherfig

Cast: Max Irons, Douglas Booth, Matthew Beard, Sam Claflin, Freddie Fox, Holliday Grainger, Natalie Dormer, Samuel West, Tom Hollander, Tony Way, Julian Wadham

Based on Laura Wade’s play Posh and with the skillful direction of Danish film maker Lone Scherfig (An Education), The Riot Club assembles a cast of the next generation of British thespians from Oscar winner Jeremy Iron’s son Max Irons as well as Edward Fox’s son Freddie Fox along with the dashing Douglas Booth (Romeo and Juliet), Sam Claflin (Snow White and the Huntsman) and Holliday Grainger (Great Expectations) in a truly brilliant diatribe about the hidden debauchery of the aristocracy.

What makes The Riot Club even more brilliant is Scherfig’s superb use of tension in the film as the second half really does raise debauchery and menace to an art form, with horrific consequences.

The Riot Club focuses on a privileged group of Oxford freshman who form a secret society, a sort of uninhabited Lord of the Flies style gathering in which the ten member group have to outdo each other in decadence, bravado and more significantly stamina, something most young men are extremely competitive about.

With the taglines of Filthy, Rich, Spoilt, Rotten, The Riot Club truly does show the terrible side of young and obnoxious men behaving extremely badly from trashing University dorm rooms to the disgusting initiation procedures a young man will go through to belong to this elite and secretive club.

This is hazing at its worst along with the cunning and knowing ability which shines through especially in the second half of this film, that no matter how disgusting or debauched their activities get, The Riot Club will manage to get away with it, relatively unscathed. In this privileged aristocratic circle, money truly does buy them everything except in this case decency and consideration for their fellow man.

The Riot Club is disturbing at the best of times, captivating and utterly debauched and aptly directed by Scherfig who as a female director superbly shows how the pack mentality in men can lead to the most heinous of acts. Audiences should watch out for cameo’s from rising Game of Thrones star Natalie Dormer as a high class escort as well as an excellent performance by Holliday Grainger as Miles Richards’s (Max Irons) girlfriend Lauren who does not come from the aristocracy and whose merchant background is used as a weapon to humiliate her when she is mistakenly called to the raucous dinner at an old English pub outside Oxford, where literally all hell breaks out.

It’s at this dinner, making up the exceptional second half of the film, that the Riot Club really live up to their horrendous reputation with copious amounts of heavy drinking and drug taking which fuels these aristocrats libido and aggression.

The Riot Club shows off the menacing side of the posh British upper classes and also the exclusivity of the landed gentry who think that despite their actions they are continually above the law because of the vast wealth. Highly recommended viewing but not for those easily offended.

 

 

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