Testament of Youth (2014) Film Review from the 58th Annual BFI London Film Festival, a movie directed by James Kent, starring Alicia Vikander, Kit Harington, Colin Morgan, Taron Egerton, Dominic West, Hayley Atwell, Emily Watson, Jonathan Bailey, Alexandra Roach, Anna Chancellor, Miranda Richardson, Joanna Scanlan, Charlotte Hope, Jenn Murray, and Henry Garrett.
A young woman recalls the events that took place in her life during World War 1. Testament of Youth is a film about love, life, and fulfilling obligations. Based on the memoirs of Vera Brittain, this film explores her story. It seems fitting that the film was released on the centenary of World War 1.
This coming of age/ heritage film is lucky to boast a wonderful and talented cast. The lead character of Vera is played by Swedish actress Alicia Vikander. Vikander was surprisingly elegant. She played the role to near perfection, accentuating Brittain’s rebellious side without allowing the audience to see her character in a less than favourable light. It was an almost flawless performance; hints of her Scandinavian accent would pop up at the strangest of times.
Kit Harington of Game of Thrones fame was equally impressive, playing Roland Leighton. His acting range is often ignored but if this film is anything to go by, Harington is wildly underappreciated. He has the knack of being the lovable loner, a feature that’s both appealing and very difficult to find in an actor.
A visually exquisite production, it shares several common elements with the age old classic Gone with the Wind (1939), especially the scene with the make-shift hospital and the ‘god view’ camera that swept from above to capture images of the wounded.
Clocking in at 129 minutes, this film has its ups and downs and is the kind of film that requires a certain amount of patience. It’s not an action packed film, the focus is very much on character development and in that sense the film delivers wonderfully.
Brittain was a brilliant young woman who decided to postpone her studies at Oxford University in order to aid British troops as a nurse. Her brother was a soldier, as was her love interest, Leighton. The best scenes in this film are the ones involving Vikander’s Brittain and Harington’s Leighton. Their simple yet electric relationship feels genuine, as does the sorrow when they have to part. Even after returning from War, a shell of a human, Leighton is unable to hide his true emotions from Brittain. Their love seems beautiful but destined to end in heartbreak, it almost seems inevitable, and their interactions later on in the film make it look like they knew that as well.
Testament of Youth isn’t just a simple romance film. There are much deeper elements at work. As an Upper-class lady of marriageable age, Brittain was fully expected to marry a man of repute rather than join the army, or go to University for that matter, yet her stubbornness to be equal to any man is a true statement of the gumption of this strong woman. It is, after all, through her eyes that we experience her world, her pain, her happiness, and her grievances.
This film caught me by surprise. I didn’t think I’d enjoy it as much as I did. For that reason alone, I’d say it was worth watching. It is a character-driven story that will make you want to hug the people you love and tell them how much you care about them.
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