Testament of Youth

Out Now On-Demand

Divided by war, united by love.

Alicia Vikander (A Royal Affair) is Vera Brittain in this historical drama based on her autobiography, recalling her experience as a woman coming of age during World War I. Co-stars Kit Harington (Pompeii), Hayley Atwell (The Duchess), Dominic West (300) and Oscar-nominee Emily Watson (War Horse).

Trailers

Directed by

Written by

Drama, True Story & Biography, War, Historical

129mins

Rating: M Content may disturb

UK

Vera Brittain was an English writer who grew up in the shadow of World War I, challenging the sexism of the times to study at Oxford University, serve her country as a nurse, and publish this eponymous memoir in 1933. Sifting through her story, the biggest question is why hasn’t Testament been filmed before (besides a 1979 BBC adaptation)? It’s an all-too-rare view of war from a female perspective, with fabulous potential for its lead actor, in this case Alice Vikander (replacing Saoirse Ronan, who dropped out at the last minute). Then it becomes clear.

Although Vikander acquits herself well, there’s a forced, un-filmic passivity to Vera’s life that's difficult to dramatise. “That’s war for you isn’t it?” tuts spiky lecturer Miranda Richardson. “Men go off to fight while we stay behind and knit!”

Vera resisted such strictures, but for all her achievements, most of the film finds her mooning over a procession of damp-eyed boys (fiancé Kit Harrington, brother Taron Egerton) as they write her endless letters from the front. It’s beautifully shot, and spiked with lovely subjective moments such as when she hallucinates a dying soldier whispering her name, or chandelier glass melting into tears at the sign of tragedy.

An accomplished TV director stepping up to features, James Kent handles Vera's subjectivity very well, but the sweep of history around her sometimes feels contrived, even though it really happened. Tackling events of great consequence with sensitivity rather than surety, Testament Of Youth is thoughtful and moving, if a few degrees short of unmissable.

Telegraph (UK)

press

As a film, Testament of Youth glimmers with sadness, but also the apprehension of sadness: we know not all of these boys are coming back.

Times (UK)

press

Traditional, heartfelt and stirring in all the right ways, the film feels as though it is the natural successor to the war romances of Powell and Pressburger.

Empire (UK)

press

Kent's craft and Vikander's exquisite talent will ensure that the author's memories live in the minds of a fresh generation...

Total Film (UK)

press

This mostly avoids the traps of dull, dutiful heritage cinema.

Time Out London

press

A beautifully acted but disappointingly stiff period drama.

Hollywood Reporter

press

An elegantly sustained balance between intimacy and historical scope...

Variety (USA)

press

Kent presents the female experience of war with crisp, tactile practicality...

Testament of War

A sobering reminder of the cost of war for the devastated families left behind. A truly tour de force turn from Vikander and Harington steps bravely out of the shadow of Jon Snow in a fantastic performance.


Eponymous?

Given that the name of the memoir/film is Testament of Youth, in what way is is eponymous?


British only

Not as feminism as it might seem to be. Just very british and vintage.

Brian1

Brian

user


Well acted and sustained war story from a different perspective

Well acted and sustained war story from a different perspective. less on the act of war and more on the personal trails that arise, this time from the perspective of the young.


How my uncle died

I agree with much of Matt Glasby's review. Apart from Vera, the other characters did not have a lot of depth. However, cinematically much of the film deepened my understanding of fighting on the Western Front, In 1917 my uncle was wounded by shrapnel from a German shell at Messines. His death six hours later would have been at a filthy, overcrowded dressing station such as that shown in the film. I had never thought about this before.