Title – Testament of Youth (2014)
Director – James Kent (feature debut)
Cast – Alicia Vikander, Kit Harrington, Taron Egerton, Colin Morgan, Dominic West, Emily Watson, Miranda Richardson
Plot – An adaptation of Vera Brittain’s autobiography, this tale focuses on Vera (Vikander) and her time in World War 1 that saw her battle her own demons at home as her love Roland Leighton (Harrington) and beloved brother Edward (Egerton) fight in the fierce confines of occupied Europe.
“What you have striven for will not end in nothing; all that you have done and been will not be wasted, for it will be a part of me as long as I live”
Review by Eddie on 3/09/2015
Told from the rarely seen or heard from perspective of a female in the times of war, U.K author Vera Brittain’s memoir Testament of Youth first published in 1933, has in the succeeding years become one of literature’s most renowned memoirs and arguably the quintessential voice to the youth that found themselves in the midst of the world’s first all-encompassing war. Such a renowned piece of history, so loved and well known by many, is a daunting prospect to adapt but first time feature film director James Kent has crafted an elegant and quietly devastating project that acts as a touching tribute to Brittan’s memory and her touching writings.
Filmed at a languid pace, now mostly foreign in modern day period adaptations, Kent and cinematographer Rob Hardy have crafted an artistic vision of Youth, perfectly encapsulating the wonders of walking a college ground, life on an old English manor or the sadness of a make shift medical ground that harbors the aftermath of life on the front line in World War 1. It’s a beautifully filmed movie, every scene could be a painting and despite Youth’s obvious budget constraints, there’s never a moment here that makes one feel as though they’re watching a film that is anything but high class. It’s a credit to Kent, Hardy and also screenwriter Juliette Towhidi that they manage such a loaded and intelligent tale in the way they do and with a young, talented cast, Youth shines a light on some growing acting up and comers that will one day likely be members of the A-list.
I for one have not been quiet in my growing praise for young Swedish actress Alicia Vikander, and on the strength shown here by her as a leading lady, there is now another reason to suggest Vikander is likely to become one of our generation’s greatest big screen talents. Imbuing Vera with a grace, vulnerability and a stern determination (much like the real life author), Vikander makes Vera her own, so much so it’s hard to imagine anyone else taking on the role. Everyone’s favourite GOT hero Jon Snow (Kit Harrington in real life) shows up here as Vera’s first love Roland and while he shows glimmers, Harrington feels a little miscast here although against Vikander on such form, many would pale in comparison. Another impressive member of the cast is young actor Taron Egerton last seen as the Kingsman: Secret Service lead as Vera’s brother Edward and after the strength shown by him in Kingsman, it’s nice to see him back up that performance here.
A harrowing – without ever being manipulative look at the horrors of war, Testament of Youth is a considered and thoughtful examination of Vera Brittain’s revered words and while the film does fail in certain instances (pacing sometimes an issue, fluidity also) the film is a handsomely crafted drama with some fantastic lead turns that will likely make it a new favourite to all those that prefer their BBC over the E Network or HBO.
4 unwanted pianos out of 5