For anyone who has ever worked in the creative arts, for anyone who has done amdram, for artists, for poets, for musicians, and for anyone who has ever doubted their craft – this film within a film is for you.
The Thick of It meets Extras but with all the charm of Call The Midwife, this story is set in the melting pot of early feminism during WWII. With young soldiers away at war, women are getting more opportunity than ever to step forward and fill roles usually reserved for men. We follow novice screenwriter Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) as she finds herself involved in creating a feature-length propaganda film, a project caught between a film company and the Ministry of Information. Initially hired simply to write the “slop” – women’s dialog – her potential is spotted by co-worker Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin) and she becomes intimately involved with the task at hand — to create not only a successful film, but also to build morale in a time where morale is sorely needed.
This film is beautifully and understatedly meta: a film about making a film, with moments of laughter and resonance for anyone who has ever worked backstage at a show, film or theatre. Bill Nighy embodies this beautifully: he is an actor playing an actor playing various characters, with all elements nesting perfectly into one another. With the faintest of echoes of Bill Mack in Love Actually, his character Ambrose Hilliard is an ageing thespian, looking to keep his career alive as he approaches his golden years. I thoroughly enjoyed his exceptional performance and ability to progress the story from farcical to heartwrenching in moments, peaking with a beautiful musical number that moved myself and others in the audience to tears.
All in all an excellent, explicitly feminist film exploring creativity, humanity and all of the processes that go towards them. As Tom Buckley says, to make a good film, “You’ve got to make a film that’s worth the hour and a half it takes to watch it.” By that standard I can say with certainty that Gabby Chiapi and Lone Scherfig have outdone that. This film of theirs is truly fine.
PS. There’s also a really well written lesbian so turn your gay-dars on.
***Potential Spoilers in Content Note***
CN: war, bombing, on screen vom*ting, corpses (non-graphic), corpse (graphic), body identification scene, sex scene, in flagrante, mourning, grief