Testament of youth

Vera Brittain’s memoirs, Testament of youth, is one of the most celebrated account of the First World War from a woman’s perspective. Just before the war, young Vera (Swedish actress Alicia Vikander) is seen having an idyllic time bathing in a river with her brother, Edward (Taron Egerton), and their friends. They have youth, innocence and great hope for the future. Vera wants to study at Oxford, and after much discussion her father agrees to let her go. When war is declared, her brother, her fiancé, Roland Leighton (Kit Harington), and her friends, Victor Richardson (Colin Morgan) and Geoffrey Thurlow (Jonathan Bailey), enlist. She then decides to leave Oxford and join the war effort as a Voluntary aid detachment (V.A.D.) nurse. The First World War was particularly deadly. More than 9 million combatants and 7 million civilians died as a result of the war. None of the young men I’ve mentioned survived and Brittain found it difficult to see those she loved die. Everything in Testament of youth seems so right. Juliette Towhidi’s adaptation shows us what it was like to be a young lady in England at the time, like the chaperone following Vera and Roland everywhere they went. But Towhidi inserts the letters they all wrote to each other (published in 1998 as Letters from a lost generation), and some of the poems Roland Leighton wrote for Vera. Testament of youth is a poem. Alicia Vikander is in every scenes, but she does not always do the obvious thing with the part. As Vera’s story march towards the inevitable tragic outcome, Vikander let’s us see her vulnerability but also her strength and compassion. When I see a film I am looking for what will make this film stand out from other films. And that is Rob Hardy’s cinematography. Working with director James Kent, Hardy’s choices are brilliant. And everything has relevance because of those choices. Of course in a British period drama you’d expect costumes and sets to be of quality, and they are. There is a beauty of a Max Richter score that uses high pitch and low pitch tones against one another. Testament of youth is a beautiful anti-war poem.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Testament of youth

Directed by:
James Kent

Screenplay by:
Juliette Towhidi
Based on the autobiography of Vera Brittain

Starring:
Alicia Vikander
Kit Harington
Taron Egerton
Colin Morgan
Dominic West
Emily Watson
Miranda Richardson

129 min.

Rated Parental Guidance

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