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Their Finest : Cute Dogs and Nihilism

Updated: May 8, 2019

Tom: Why do you think people like films? It's because stories are structure. They're a shape, a purpose, a meaning. And when things turn bad, it's still part of a plan, you know…There's a point to it. Unlike life.

Their Finest


 


*SPOILER ALERT*



Their Finest has all the ingredients of a feel-good film: plenty of 1940s nostalgia, a dose of charming British humour, a Darcy-Lizzie type romance, and a courageous but ordinary protagonist who overcomes great loss, betrayal and prejudice through perseverance and strength of character. A couple of adorable dogs are thrown into the mix too. What more could you want?!


And yet in many ways this is a startlingly bleak film. To be truthful, I did not leave the cinema feeling particularly good at all. I felt mildly traumatised for the rest of the evening (and the next morning as well…)

This is a story of living side by side with death. It portrays the human struggle for hope, purpose, and beauty in the face of meaningless suffering. It reminds us that even the thickest layers of triumphant British sugar-coating cannot hide the brutal chaos of war… Or can it? Perhaps this is part of the question that lies at the heart of this film. Can art, love, humanity, and humour triumph over suffering?


Coming away from the film, I struggled to decide whether this was a story about meaning overcoming over death, or death overcoming meaning.


As Catrin sits typing a script in the office, with bombs falling outside and dust falling from the ceiling, we are reminded of the power of narrative to grasp hold of us in the midst of chaos, and perhaps even save us from death. (We discover after this scene that if she hadn’t been in the office, she would have been killed in her own home.) Does she overcome this chaos through her writing? Does she survive through her art?

Or is her writing merely a distraction from the meaningless suffering all around her?


This is the sort of challenge that is often thrown at Christianity and at faith and religion in general. The Bible tells us that we are part of a greater story of God’s love and purpose for creation. Some would call this wishful thinking – merely a crutch to help us limp through a dark, painful reality. But what if this story is true? What if the Toms of this world are wrong and life does have a point?


Interestingly, the writers of this film choose the optimistic and courageous Catrin as the protagonist and survivor of the film, whilst Tom, the nihilist figure, faces death. Has nihilism perhaps lost the battle - in the midst of (and even through) the mundane meaninglessness of death and suffering?


Whilst I may not side with Tom, I think he raises a very important question, and it’s one that we often attempt to run away from. What do we believe “when things turn bad”?


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