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Soundtrack review: Their finest (Rachel Portman – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Their finest (Rachel Portman – 2017)

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“Their Finest” is a 2016 British war comedy-drama film directed by Lone Scherfig and written by Gaby Chiappe, based on the 2009 novel Their Finest Hour and a Half by Lissa Evans. The film stars Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy, Jack Huston, Jake Lacy, Richard E. Grant, Henry Goodman, Rachael Stirling, Eddie Marsan, Helen McCrory, and Claudia Jessie. The film tells the story of a British Ministry of Information film team making a morale-boosting film about the Dunkirk evacuation during the Battle of Britain and the London Blitz. Rachel Portman wrote the score.

Rachel Portman is one of my favourite female composers and one of the musicians who have created a special unique sound that you almost always recognise right away. Composers like her, Thomas Newman or Mark Isham have created their own musical niche and a comfort zone honed for years and years. Their fans not only know what to expect most of the times but they also know that they will never be disappointed. For Rachel Portman, is the piano elegance, quiet and subdued most of the time, that is British to the very core. I just love to be covered in the smooth and fine veil that she weaves with the flute and the piano and I appreciated her music even if it’s most of the times beautiful and rarely truly moving. Her music quietly walks on the edge of the dramatic as it’s both shy and determined and gives broad spaces for the on screen images to develop and for them to fill. It’s as if her music opens the path for the movies’s emotional scenes to follow.

She is only one of the last full orchestral composers left, in a age where sound design or cheaper electronic scores are the order of the day. It’s refreshing to hear purely classical compositions like “Nancy Starling part II” in today’s film music world. I have been to a lot of classical music concerts and the was she writes music and the way it’s performed reminds me a lot of those experiences. Her music transcends film music and I am sure classical music fans appreciate it as well.

I am able to write these thoughts as the music of “Their finest” gently flows in my ears and it’s further proof of how opened and welcoming her music is, also unobtrusive. I am enjoying it, I feel peaceful, I am listening to beautiful music and I don’t need anything else. Even if the events in the movie are dramatic and moving Rachel Portman left that to the director and actors, she just took care of the blood that makes it live and breathe. There aren’t dramatic or epic moments, and this makes her music human and believable. When it gets lively and playful it’s also a joy to listen to, like in “Ambrose is cast”, a celebratory cue that fills me up with energy and joy.

“Their finest” is classical Rachel Portman (pun intended) and I will always welcome her music with open heart and ears.

Cue rating: 91 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 17 / 29

Album excellence: 59%

Highlights:
I’d Miss You
Catrin Grieves
Kiss
Nancy Starling Part 2
Catrin Rewrites The Ending
Heavy Rescue
Ambrose is Cast
Tower Falls
Make It A Happy One

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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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