A Testament of Youth – a movie review by Roz Tarszisz

April 23, 2015 by Roz Tarszisz
Read on for article

Timing is everything, in life and in art.

While the release of this British World War I drama is apt, I wondered if it would be lost among all the small screen Anzac tributes.

As a powerful story of love and loss, war and remembrance it stands on its own.

It’s made all the more poignant by being based on Vera Brittain’s bestselling memoir, Testament of Youth , which was hailed as the voice of a generation on its release in 1933.

Directed by James Kent, the story kicks off in spring 1914 at their country house party where Vera (Alicia Vikander), her brother Edward (Taron Egerton) and his friends Roland Leighton  (Kit Harington) and Viktor Richardson (Colin Morgan) are enjoying a spring break.  The carefree young men look forward to commencing their studies at Oxford.

Against her conservative parent’s wishes, Vera also wants to study and follow her dream of becoming a writer, an aspiration she shares with Roland.  Against all odds, she gets into Oxford. A delightful cameo from Miranda Richardson as her tutor sets the tone.   While Vera requires a chaperone to see Roland, the two still manage to fall in love.

After Edward and Roland enlist and are sent to France to fight, she gives up her dream and signs on as a nurse in England, later transferring to a French field hospital. Conditions are grim but the determined Vera is able to save her brother’s life when he is wounded in battle.

Muddy field stations, lack of doctors and drugs, horrible deaths and how Vera copes with numbing loss are well depicted. While nursing German soldiers, she realises how futile all the deaths are – she becomes a pacifist after the war. We can admire her gumption while admiring her intelligence and loveliness.

I found myself musing on accents and ageing– whilst watching Dominic West as Vera’s solid and loving father.  Often the leading man in tv dramas, here he plays a respectable north– country mill owner. He sure can work an accent.  Emily Watson as Vera’s mother doesn’t get to extend her range much.

Some of the letters used from the front and Roland’s poems are authentic. We can never be reminded too often of the effects of war – on those who fight and those left behind.

4/5 Rated M  Out April 23  129 mins

Starring Alicia Vikander, Kit Harington, Taron Egerton, Emily Watson

Directed by James Kent

Screenplay by Juliette Towhidi

Based on Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain

 

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