Director James Kent’s Testament of Youth is a competent historical drama that expresses the horrors of World War I, albeit in a poetic fashion.
Vera Brittain is determined to go to Oxford along with her brother and his friends, even though her father is against it. Vera’s plans are thrown into chaos, however, with the outbreak of the First World War…
Based on Vera Brittain’s memoirs, Testament of Youth is a solid account of the First World War on the educated upper middle classes. Seen through the prism of Vera and her loved ones, the devastation of this conflict is laid bare by director Kent. The film depicts the impact the war had not only on those who saw fighting, but on their loved ones and families. Testament of Youth really hones in on the effect of losing loved ones.
As a protagonist, Vera is wilful and determined, but not necessarily immediately likeable. As the film progresses, however, the audience will feel more empathy for her. The narrative is aptly woven, with sufficient character development for all the main players. Characters in Testament of Youth are certainly believable.
The film makes the most of the landscape. This scenes are beautifully shot, and feed into the poetry that is intwined in the picture. The preoccupation with poetry gives Testament of Youth a romantic feel which sits in contrast with the brutality of war. The film plays on this contrast, creating an abrasion between the violence of the frontline and the pleasantry of the youngsters’ upbringings.
Alicia Vikander delivers a mostly understated but effective performance as Vera. Elsewhere, Emily Watson and Colin Morgan standout in a decent cast. Testament of Youth is an attentively crafted picture, which gives pause to thought.
Testament of Youth is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2014.