Based on the memoirs of Vera Brittain with the screenplay adapted by Juliette Towhidi, Testament of Youth brings to the screen the heart wrenching tale of World War 1 and the effect it had on this particular woman’s life.
Vera is young at the outbreak of the war, pursuing dreams her father doesn’t approve of. With a close relationship with her brother and a good friend in Victor – even if his heart is set on more – Vera finds herself swept away. Accepted into Oxford and finding herself falling in love with another family friend, Roland, it should be everything that Vera ever dreamt of.
If it hadn’t been for the war starting out.
Soon, the young woman finds herself doing whatever it takes to stop herself worrying about her young men off at war. Enlisting as a nurse, she works first at home while attempting to continue her romance with Roland. But when one piece of devastating news just leads to a second, Vera heads out to the front line in order to try and be there for her brother. But although he does soon need her and she defeats the odds in keeping him alive, her struggles are eventually for nothing as the war continues.
As the war comes to an end, Vera must find out who she now is when everything she has ever known, loved or wanted has been destroyed.
The film is a powerful, gut-wrenching, heart-breaking one with phenomenal performances from this involved, especially Alicia Vikander as Vera. There is no relief, no respite in the film just as there wasn’t during the war and Vikand portrays the determined yet heartbroken young woman with exceptional talent.
The scenes are beautifully depicted, with soft colouring and slow motion introduced as Vera remembers the happier times with those she cares about. It creates a mood in a way not often seen in cinema and shows how director James Kent must have worked exceptionally hard to create the atmosphere the film brings to life.
It is certainly not one you would watch for the entertainment purposes. The film is heavy going from the start and at over two hours long, you find yourself in a bit of an emotional daze by the end of it. However, due to the content and the fact that it is based from memoirs, any relief wouldn’t have worked regardless of where it was inserted and would appear forced. The last thing it needs is to have the power of the film disrupted.
A stunning visual representation in a time the modern audience can scarcely begin to imagine. The characters are defined and developed well, making each death as hard hitting as the next. The pain Vera goes through is coupled only with her determination to keep going and as aforementioned, no one could have handled it better than Vikander. A truly moving and emotional film that makes you think back to a time thankfully past. It serves as a reminder of the pain people involved went through and it does so powerfully.