Testament of Youth Film Review

Film Review by Jarred Tito
Testament of Youth

The Premise
A British woman recalls coming of age during World War I.

The Review
Well this movie is certainly epic and is shot in a style that is not unlike some of the great movies made in the golden years of Hollywood’s glory days. Moments etched into Hollywood’s immortal archives. You will certainly be able to draw some comparisons to a range of well know movies and in particular ‘Gone with the Wind’, another film that has its story locked firmly into two parallel plots; the North American Civil War and secondly, a tragic love story. Well the similarities certainly didn’t hurt this movie and may even provide some moments of nostalgic delight for some of the more seasoned viewers. However, the story itself is completely original and based on the author’s own experiences and memoirs of WW1.

Testament of Youth is a story about Vera Brittan, the famous English author, and her personal involvement in the First World War. The story is taken from her own autobiographical, a worldwide best seller, which takes us on her journey through WW1 and the personal afflictions she suffers through the loss of family members and loved ones. It’s also a story about the coming of age of her as a young, impressionable woman and equally, the coming of age of England as a modern nation forced to recognize the equal rights of woman. This is important to know when watching this film. I initially fell into the trap of thinking this was a love story. It is definitely not. In fact as a love story, it’s pretty lame. I don’t think any of the characters have any success in that department? Insult is added to injury by very average performance by the leading male. My advice to anyone intending to see this movie would be to focus on the character Vera (Alicia Vikander) as this may save you from some of the frustrations I felt after investing time into the others. The cinema photography is quite exceptional too and might be one other part of the film you may want to focus on. There is one particular scene in France where we see Vera in the middle of a front line hospital which is quite breath taking as well as a grim reminder of the terror of war. It’s very similar to a famous scene in Gone with the Wind. Watch for it…it’s a real cinematic highlight.   

One thought that remained with me after the movie was that of Vera’s personal losses. Without spoiling the film I can say that she experiences quite a lot of hardship which no doubt reflects the experiences of a lot of the women of the time. However, I can’t say that I was moved in this film as I have been moved in other war-time stories. That was possibly due to some of the inconsistent performances from some of the other cast members like Kit Harington’s (John Snow from GOT) and not the film itself. I found it very hard to empathize with his character. I suspect it was because of his unfelt performance. Dominic West (McNaulty, The Wire) had a great little role as the father and a touching scene when sending his son off to war. Vera’s story was very heart felt and true. I wish the film had more of her and less of John Snow.

The Verdict
This is definitely a picture that will move you in parts but not all the way through. So if you are expecting another Gone with the Wind you’ll have to lower the bar a little to avoid the let downs, and prepare yourselves for the very long tail at the end. Having said that, there are certainly redeeming qualities that get it across the line and well beyond it. Alicia Vikander is fantastic as Vera Brittan. The view into some of the war scenes is sensational. The losses felt as news of loved ones fallen, is devastating and should be told.
Overall, this is a decent film which reminds us all of the tragedy of war which I believe was the original intention or Vera Brittan’s Memoirs. Perhaps not as good as the book but okay.

The Trailer

The Info
Releases: 23rd April 2015
Rating: TBC
Duration: 130 minutes 
Genre:  Drama
Starring: Alicia Vikander, Kit Harington, Hayley Atwell, Dominic West, Emily Watson, Miranda Richardson, Colin Morgan, Taron Egerton
Director: James Kent (Debut Feature Film)

The Extras
Saoirse Ronan was originally cast as Vera Britain but she dropped out due to scheduling conflicts. Alicia Vikander replaced her.

The film was shot in various locations in Yorkshire, Oxford and London. The railway station scenes, the train interiors, and the scene in the railway café, were shot at Keighley Station, using trains provided by the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway. The landscape shots of period trains were filmed at the heritage track of the The North Yorkshire Moors Railway. The Welbeck Estate in Nottinghamshire provided several locations, including the scenes at Uppingham school, Melrose house and the Etaples field hospital. The lake scenes were filmed in Darley Dale in Derbyshire.

Alicia Vikander and cinematography Rob Hardy worked together on Ex Machina (2015)