Testament of Youth is directed by James Kent and is an adaption of the memoirs of Vera Brittain. The most amazing thing about the adaptation is that the screenplay was written by Juliette Towhidi who was responsible for the script for what I thought was the worst film of 2014 Lovie, Rosie. Thankfully this is much more grown up fare. Vera Brittain is a strong willed and intelligent young woman determined to get a place at Oxford who finds her idyllic youth interrupted by the outbreak of World War I.
This might seem to be an odd way to start a review of a film but I want to mention the trailer. If you have seen the trailer you’ll be expecting a slightly melodramatic romance centred around living for the now and the carnage of trench warfare. That is not what this film is about. It’s a coming of age tale of young Vera (Alicia Vikander) who over the course of just a few years must come to terms with love, loss and finding her true voice. There is a love affair with a gentleman called Roland (Kit Harrington) but for me this only a small part of the film. He isn’t in for that long although his influence remains.
The first part of the film is a little tepid and I couldn’t help thinking they were reshooting Pride and Prejudice as it would have been in 1914. Vera should be finding herself a husband but she is determined not to follow convention while Roland accuses her of jumping to conclusions about him etc etc. It becomes a far more involving drama as the brown stuff hits the fan and Vera becomes more involved in the war effort and sees the horrors for herself. That being said the filmmakers have held back in terms of the blood and guts element – you’re not going to get the beach landing scene from Saving Private Ryan (1998) in a 12A rated film. It’s unclear to me whether this was a creative decision i.e. focus on the human drama or a financial one i.e. try and reach the widest audience possible.
A final comment on Miss Vikander who carries the film in the lead role. She certainly has screen presence and gives the best performance in the film. I couldn’t shake the feeling that she looked a bit mediterranean with that olive coloured skin, a thought made all the more odd by the fact she hails from Sweden. I’ll be seeing her again shortly in Ex-Machina which is released later this week.
Testament of Youth doesn’t excel but there’s enough in the second and third acts to keep you gripped. It was interesting to note that the film attracted an older audience who didn’t immediately leave as the end credits rolled. Looking at their faces they experienced the film in a different way to me. Rating 3/5.