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Testament of Youth – Film Review

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Directed by James Kent

There was a lot of hype when Testament of Youth first came out (also possibly partially because it had both the GoT star Kit Harington and the Merlin actor Colin Morgan) to commemorate the 100th anniversary of WWI, although I haven’t heard much from it since.

Nevertheless, the British film industry produced yet another sweet, serene yet innocently heart-breaking rendition of Vera Brittain’s memoir, with The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything, other hugely successful British films (with wonderful OST’s, may I add) coming shortly before and after its release. Vera, played by Alicia Vikander, travels through an utterly relentless journey of love and loss in the game which has only one inevitable, however cruel, ending. True, it may not have had such memorable scores, but if it worked well with the movie I can’t really ask for much more, can I?

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Some brilliant casting was made here. Alicia Vikander has always entranced me ever since Ex Machina, where she plays the AI Ava in another stunning performance, and she certainly delivered here, with some fascinating shots. How she manages to cram all that emotion onto her face, we will never know.

Vera herself is a fascinating character in her own right; strong, stubborn and unwilling to bend to the limits of society placed on women at that time, determined to get into Oxford (which she does) no matter the cost-both literally and metaphorically, and then determined to somehow do her part for the war, even if she can’t fight on the front lines like the men, leaving university and everything she had strived for prior to the war to join the Voluntary Aid Detachment. She’s no Disney princess, waiting to throw herself off a tower when the prince comes a-calling for her love, even resisting the original efforts of Roland, the man trying to win her over with second-hand poems and blue printed flowers. And when the going gets tough, you start to realise how strong this woman is; not having some ‘womanly’ mental breakdown, not spilling little pools of tears on the floor as she sobs in the corner, no-she fights it, and in doing so fights herself. And when she finally allows her emotions to take over, it’s a raging tidal wave of her basically imploding from the inside, the walls crashing in on each other, almost too horrible to watch due to its heavy emotional toll. But somehow Vera gets through it all; somehow Vikander delivers it all. I can’t wait to see her in The Danish Girl when it comes out.

But let’s not forget about the guys-they are, after all, who Vera’s rooting for in the end. There was lovely casting for all three of the main supporting characters; Roland (Kit Harington), Edward (Taron Egerton), Vera’s brother, and Victor (Colin Morgan), Edward’s school friend. Memorable performances all round. I certainly applaud whoever was the casting director on Testament of Youth (I now see that the casting director was Lucy Bevan, after a brief internet search.)

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Although the movie is set in the early 1900’s and yet contains Jon Snow, Merlin and a femme-fatale robot, the film hardly even needs to make an effort to bring the shots to life-quick, simple, effective. I could be bluffing but the cool palette tones used for filming were certainly very effectual, as if giving the impression of a softer, kinder, world on the surface but hinting a dark, menacing undertone beneath the grey clouds and the rough seas. There are voiceover narratives in the form of Roland’s expressive, if naïve, poems as he closes in on himself to shut out all the pain and death which surrounded the soldiers to the backdrop of crashing waves and steep-faced white cliffs which help drive the story along-and it’s an interesting way to shoot it.

Overall, a compelling, moving story set in the most tragic of times, providing a fresh and brutally honest perspective on love and loss. What more could you want? (A tissue box could come in handy.)

News and Announcements

  • Ok I lied when I said the next one would be DoFP. Sorry. Getting a huge backlog of things to write, I’m freaking out.
  • Since I’m not sure when I’ll be posting again, I’ll just say Merry Christmas! Hope you all had a wonderful year and that 2016 will be even greater!


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