Peter Feldman
2 minute read
28 Nov 2015
9:00 am

Testament of Youth movie review

Peter Feldman

A tale of heartache, family, tragedy and perseverance.

Testament of Youth is an engrossing war epic about Vera Brittain, a fiercely independent woman who abandons her studies at Oxford University to become a field nurse during World War I.

Based on her classic 1933 memoir, James Kent has fashioned a superb slice of English period drama in his directorial debut, impeccably capturing the era and all the dramatic elements that contribute towards creating a first-class film.

The story is a deeply touching tribute to Vera, played with astonishing depth and understanding by Alicia Vikander, as it follows the highs and lows of the author’s life as she comes face to face with both the brutality and futility of war. It is, perhaps, one of the most damning statements about war I’ve seen in a long time.

The vivid imagery, beautifully shot by cinematographer Rob Hardy, and the quality of the acting immerse the viewer totally in the unfolding drama. The film’s core is the appeal of rising Danish star Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina, A Royal Affair), who portrays the headstrong young feminist Brittain, who traded her hard-won spot at Oxford for a volunteer nurse’s uniform.

Brittain’s tale of heartache, of family tragedy and, ultimately, of perseverance in the face of it all is an affecting experience. It maintains balance and restraint that few war films have achieved. Her climactic speech, which encapsulates her profound journey, manages to elevate pacifist rhetoric into feverish poetry and it touches the soul. The supporting cast are uniformly good.

An important facet of the film is that it’s World War I from a woman’s point of view, a different perspective that we don’t often see. Testament of Youth is an enormously touching experience and highly recommended.

Watch trailer