Swedish star Alicia Vikander (A Royal Affair) stunningly brings to life Vera Brittain’s memoirs of England before, during and after the First World War.
In the beginning we see Vera as an aspiring writer to be, with glazed eyes over Oxford and of the knowledge she hopes to attain. We see the flourishing hope of young love in the Edwardian summer of 1914; chaperoned of course.
Vera’s brother Edward (Taron Egerton) and his friends Victor (Colin Morgan) and Roland (Kit Harrington) spend the summer romanticising life; of their future and the lives they hope to lead. A single-minded and strong-willed Vera is one of them, but longs for Oxford and of what things might await her there.
Though in her conservative father’s eyes, Vera was not to be wasting her time with study, but rather she should be a placid woman set to marry a prospective gentlemen.
But her strong demeanour and will to break through the barriers of living as a woman in the early twentieth century grants her a position in Oxford. She had to fight her family’s beliefs and in essence fight society for the right to be educated as a woman; though life does not become painted with the interior of libraries and afternoons spent writing.
In the four years following, Vera lives through what can only be described as incomprehensible pain and loss, knowing full well that the boys she knew and spent the summer with might not come home from war. Trickling through sadness Testament of Youth helps give answer to the question of; ‘was the war really worth it?’
The cinematography by Kent is gloriously simple and effective where it needs to be; moving where it wants to be. A crane shot revealing bodies lying on a field; a close up of Vera’s eyes and neck, highlighting her femininity when iterating a letter and poem sent to Roland.
Vikander’s performance of the strong-minded and energetic feminist, to a powerful, active pacifist who strives to comprehend the cruelness and horrific circumstances of war is solemnly moving. When alone on-screen she does not falter and her presence is felt well.
Combined with James Kent as director and brought to life by Juliette Towhidi, Testament of Youth captures the utter brutality of war and of the after-effects on families and loved-ones. It will inspire you to measure your happiness if not by time, then by words spoken and experiences shared.
A moving and stunningly beautiful film.
Directed by James Kent and stars Alicia Vikander, Kit Harington, Taron Egerton, Miranda Richardson, Dominic West, Emily Watson, Colin Morgan and Hayley Atwell.
In Australian cinemas April 23.
Testament of Youth was adapted from the memoirs of Vera Brittain who lived through the First World War and, who ten years later, collected and wrote down her trials and memories of a bygone era. Her book ‘Testament of Youth’ is still in print today.