On Monday nights I try to go to a movie and see something inspirational or family friendly because Monday nights are family night in my church. So tonight I looked and saw Testament of Youth was playing. It sounded inspirational and had good reviews so I figured ‘why not?’ and I went and saw it. I’m so glad I did! This is a terrific movie. One of the best of the year so far.
Testament of Youth tells the story of Vera Brittain based off of her memoir. It begins in 1914 and the start reminded me of Jane Campions wonderful movie Bright Star. It is full of light and hope surrounding Vera, her brother Edward and 2 friends Roland and Victor.
All the acting is excellent in the movie led by Alicia Vikander from Ex-Machina who reminded me of Natalie Portman. I think she is going to be a huge star. Kit Harrington plays Roland and the two bond over a shared love of writing, poetry in particular (another thing in common with Bright Star).
Vera wants nothing more at the outset to go to Oxford and gain an education. Her father is against it but eventually relents. He could have been such a one note character but he is actually right about a lot in the movie and Dominic West is so good in every scene he is in.
Eventually all of their worlds are interrupted when World War 1 begins and the boys naively fight to enter the war and even be put in combat.
However, we don’t get much of the actual battles. Most of the time is spent with Vera as she works as a nurse first in England and then in the front lines in France. These scenes are tough to take at times and it is amazing it got a PG-13 rating with all the blood we see (stupid MPAA).
There is a leisurely pace to the film but I was really engaged by Vikander’s performance and her life story. It’s not a movie with a strong plot or giant climax. It has 3 climaxes kind of. It’s just Vera’s life story and I was very moved by it.
I couldn’t help but think about World War 1 while watching it. There’s a scene that seemed out of Gone with the Wind where they are surrounded by body after body trying to administer relief. What was all this suffering for? In World War 2 we all know there was true evil that was trying to conquer the world. World War 1 was a diplomatic dispute that led to the assassination of an Archduke. Was that worth all the suffering?
The reason why I think we should have more movies about World War 1 is because most conflicts are muddled in their purpose like it. Very rarely do we have a Hitler to defeat and so Testament of Youth is a valuable film both for the history lesson but also how we repeat it again and again.
I’m sure some people will read this review and think ‘that sounds sad. I don’t like sad movies’ but if you do I think you are really missing out. You could actually learn something and want to make a difference? Heaven forbid movies actually make us feel something more than a good time.
Here is the trailer:
I loved Testament of Youth. It’s beautifully shot, well acted, moving and important film about a time in world history most of us don’t know near enough about. I encourage all of you to hunt it out and see it. I’m sure glad I did. One of best of the year so far for sure.
Here’s my review on the youtube channel. I was trying out a new lens so it is a little fuzzy but I did my best.