Cinema Review: Testament of Youth | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, May 21st, 2024  

Testament of Youth

Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
Directed by James Kent

Jun 03, 2015 Web Exclusive
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Based on Vera Brittain’s bestselling memoirs of the First World War, Testament of Youth chronicles the young British writer’s life from 1914 through 1918. Young Vera (Alicia Vikander) is the daughter of a wealthy mill owner; her father (The Wire’s Dominic West) only wishes she’ll find a husband, but Vera would rather pursue an education at Oxford than settle down. In the summer of 1914, she and her three best male companions—brother Edward (Kingsman’s Taron Egerton), friend Victor (Colin Morgan), and love interest Roland (Game of Thrones’ Kit Harington)—talk excitedly about how their whole lives lie ahead of them.

You don’t need to have read Brittain’s memoir to know full well what’s coming—it’s spelled out early on in ominous, obvious newspaper headlines, just in case you’ve forgotten your high school history courses. When war does eventually break out, the young men repeatedly assure her it “will be over soon,” or that they’ll be safe from harm as they’re shipped off, one by one, to the front line. Collectively, they’re only given a handful of minor biographical details—Roland occasionally writes poems, Edward wanted a piano as a youth—and little else that builds them into anything more than sweet, generic gentlemen for the heroine to grieve over. Vikander gives a fine performance as the strong-willed Brittain, who leaves her schooling behind to become a military nurse, but it’s a shame her inspirational, true-life story has been boiled down to Downton-esque melodrama.

Author rating: 5.5/10

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