Testament of Youth is considered one of the great war memoirs. The film is a true-life account of Vera Brittian’s life from 1914 – 1918, and a chronicle of how World War One affected not only her, but the nation’s lives.
I had heard about this book during high school when I studied 20th Century History but never actually read it. After hearing that a film was to be released, with the ever stunning and awe-inspiring Swede, Alicia Vikander, playing Vera Brittain, I knew it was something to be excited about.
Unlike the many films that have been made about both world wars, Testament of Youth explores the utter loss of not only a young woman who looses everyone she has come to love, but loss of those on both sides of the war. It focuses on the domestic view. The view of, really, an unseen or explored perspective on the despair that war can cause. I started to bawl my eyes out about halfway through the film and the tears didn’t stop until well after the lights came up in the cinema.
The film progressively gets darker as war becomes more of a presence within the story, with the most heartbreaking scenes kicked off by Brittain’s loss of fiancé, Roland Leighton (Kit Harrington), and her transferral to the front line in France. There is no holding back in how disturbing of an experience it was for Brittain as we a shown first had what she dealt with.
The film held together with strong direction and script along with a well performing cast of Kit Harrington, Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Emily Watson, Hayley Atwell, and newcomer Taron Egerton.
It was given a world-premiere at the BFI London Film Festival in 2014, the film was released in time for Remembrance Day in November and awards season, in which it ashamedly didn’t gain the recognition it deserved. For me, the film is as good as fellow war film and Oscar nominated, The Imitation Game.
Now, if you will excuse me, I have a book to read.