Testament of Youth (12A)
Testament of Youth (12A)
Director: James Kent
Cast: Alicia Vikander, Kit Harington, Taron Egerton, Colin Morgan, Jonathan Bailey, Dominic West, Emily Watson, Miranda Richardson, Joanna Scanlan
Running Time: 2h 10m
Synopsis : After being awarded a scholarship to Oxford University, Vera finds herself deeply in love with her brother’s dashing friend Roland, who shares her intellect and passion. However, her life is shattered at the outset of war when her brother and Roland ship out to the front lines. Abandoning her academic career to become a volunteer nurse, Vera ends up experiencing many of the horrors of war first hand.
Based on the celebrated memoirs of Vera Brittain, this timely adaptation is a moving and sensitive depiction of the emotional impact of the First World War, from the front-line perspective of those who joined up, to the harrowing despair of friends and family at home.
2014 seems a fitting centenary year to have a new cinema version of this famous work – previously adapted into a beloved 1979 BBC TV drama serial – and director James Kent’s beautifully realised vision puts prolific new talent Alicia Vikander (Ex_Machina 2014, A Royal Affair 2012) at its centre as Vera.
Her memoir starts pre-1914 when we meet Vera, an irrepressible, intelligent and free-minded young woman. She overcomes the prejudices of her family and hometown to win a scholarship to Oxford. With everything to live for, she falls in love with her brother’s close friend Roland Leighton (Kit Harington) as they go to University to pursue their literary dreams. But the First World War is looming and as the boys leave for the front Vera realises she cannot sit idly by as her peers fight for their country, so she volunteers as a nurse. She works tirelessly, experiencing all the grief and horrors of war, as one by one those closest to her are killed and the pillars of her world shattered. But, with indefatigable spirit, Vera endures and returns to Oxford at the war’s end, irrevocably changed, yet determined to find a new purpose, which spurs her towards a powerful act of remembrance.
The talented ensemble with brother Edward (Taron Egerton) and friends Victor (Colin Morgan) and Geoffrey (Jonathan Bailey) recreate the period effortlessly, backed by strong performances from veterans Miranda Richardson as Vera’s Oxford tutor Miss Lorimer, Dominic West and Emily Watson as her parents and the ever-excellent Joanna Scanlan as Aunt Belle. Period detail and outfits from costume designer Consolata Boyle are flawless.
Testament of Youth remains a powerful and passionate journey from youthful hopes and dreams to the edge of despair and back again – a film about young love, the futility of war and how to make sense of the darkest times.
Images courtesy of BBC Films