There’s a plethora of books written about World War 1, stunning, devastating descriptions of war’s inimitable power to slay youth’s illusions: “All Quite on the Western Front” Erich Maria Remarque, “Guns of August”, Barbara Tuchman; my personal favorite, Mark Helprin’s “A Soldier of the Great War”; “Testament of Youth” is a profound portrait of war’s iconic ability to alter completely one’s life, heart and perspective of the world’s stage; written by Vera Brittain (1893-1970) an English, Oxford- educated, pacifist; a woman whose fierce intelligence, resolve was defined by WWI.
“Testament of Youth” is beautifully, sensitively depicted by Alicia Vikander (“Ex Machina”) as Vera Brittain; shimmering, luminous, without words, she conveys the pathos and pain of slain ideals, joys of innocence aborted, replaced by ugliness, bleakness of war’s vicissitudes. Vikander’s performance is spellbinding.
Kit Harington (“Game of Thrones”) as Roland Leighton, Vera’s heartthrob, is compellingly complex; a writer and poet whose starry fantasies of “saving the world” quickly dissipate in the mud, gore and reality of the battlefield.
Taron Egerton as Edward Brittain, Vera’s younger brother, captures their deep-seated, penetrating familial love; their letters exchanged during the course of the war, resonate with scholarship, heartfelt, emotional understanding, as their youth fades in the clutches of war’s wisdoms.
Vera takes a hiatus from her persistently sought education at Oxford to join the war in the capacity of a nurse; one wide screen shot of posthumous figures, reminiscent of “Gone With the Wind”; overwhelming odds challenge her indomitable spirit.
“Testament of Youth” sheds light on a woman’s plight in the early twentieth century; Director James Kent and Alicia Vikander gift audiences the remarkable story of Vera Brittain, whose lost “youth” garnishes respect won by soldiers and civilians alike; a sterling, unforgettable “testament” of love and remembrance.