We didn't plan it this way, but this week we ended up seeing two movies back to back that somehow involved the historic retreat of forces during WWII at Dunkirk beach.
THEIR FINEST (now available for streaming), is about a woman in 1940 England charged with writing a film script about Dunkirk. The film was part of the government's propaganda efforts, to give the public something with "authenticity and optimism." I don't think it's any mistake that this film (about the film) shines with exactly those qualities. It's a love story, it's a girl-finding-her-power story, it's a human story. It's also funny and sweet, and I totally want to watch it again.
DUNKIRK, is in theaters now, cleaning up at the box office, in case you didn't know. We've been seeing the commercials for this movie forever... which might explain my initial lack of enthusiasm. Sure it looks beautifully shot, but haven't we seen this kind of sweeping war movie before? I don't enjoy watching people die on screen. It all feels so needless and hopeless. And yet, our youngest son really wanted to see it, and we'd just loved THEIR FINEST, so off we went!
And you know what? It was a good movie. Yes, beautifully shot. And my son said it deserves an Oscar for sound editing. It was tense in ways I wasn't expecting -- smart move building 3 storylines and continuing to cut between them. It also did what I've just been reading that we need to do in our books: show characters grappling with decisions. Give readers/viewers a chance to put themselves in those situations and decide what they might do.
But the best part was how the film had these moments of grace, these unexpected examples of humans at their very best -- humans making choices that are not just for themselves, but for the good of others. It moved me, and I wasn't expecting that.
Authenticity and optimism... check check!