Testament of Youth
Autumn 2015 Features series
Sunday, November 15, 2015 at 4:00pm
Sunday, November 15, 2015 at 7:00pm
Directed by James Kent
Screenplay by Juliette Towhidi
Based on the book by Vera Brittain
Starring Alicia Vikander, Kit Harington, and Emily Watson
Rated NR ·
Directed by British television veteran James Kent and adapted for the screen by Juliette Towhidi, Testament of Youth is a powerful story of love, war, and remembrance, based on the First World War memoir by Vera Brittain, which has become the classic testimony of that war from a woman’s point of view. A searing journey from youthful hopes and dreams to the edge of despair and back again, it is a film about young love, the futility of war, and how to make sense of the darkest times.
The film begins on Armistice Day 1918, then flashes back four years to a scene of Vera (Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina, Anna Karenina, A Royal Affair), her younger brother Edward (Taron Egerton) and his prep school friends Victor Richardson (Colin Morgan) and Roland Leighton (Kit Harington) frolicking in the countryside.
Vera chafes at her parents’ efforts to groom her into a model future wife. Determined to go to Oxford, she rejects the piano her father (Dominic West, Pride) gives her and reminds him that it cost the same as a year in college. Contrary to the wishes of her severe, eagle-eyed mother (Emily Watson, Belle, Oranges and Sunshine), Vera is not a flower waiting to be picked by a wealthy suitor, and her parents are aghast when she announces she will never marry. A wary attraction develops between Vera and Roland, both of whom write poetry, but they can meet only with a chaperone present. Nevertheless, they fall in love.
No sooner is war declared than first Roland, then Edward, then Victor succumb to war fever and heed the call to fight. Vera’s father relents and sends her to Oxford. However, unable to concentrate, she soon leaves Oxford to volunteer as a nurse and eventually ends up at Etaples, a hospital in France close to the front lines, where the monstrous extent of the carnage she sees is almost too much to bear.
“Unapologetically emotional and impeccably made in the classic manner, it tells the kind of potent, many-sided story whose unforeseen complexities can come only courtesy of a life that lived them all.” (Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times)
“Striking an elegantly sustained balance between intimacy and historical scope, director James Kent’s WWI-set epic Testament of Youth encompasses nearly all of the virtues of classical British period drama and nearly none of the vices.” (Leslie Felperin, The Hollywood Reporter)
“Alicia Vikander has fully and memorably arrived, a luminous presence with a gift for tenderness, an instinct for understatement and formidable reserves of passion—she not only rises to the challenge of Vera’s climactic speech, but elevates the pacifist rhetoric into furious poetry.” (Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal)