Like ‘Straight Outta Compton,’ ‘Testament of Youth,’ is based on a true story of how events in the past where the actions of those in power that affected the young are still relevant today. People are still losing family and friends to war, and those who go to the front lines are care for the wounded still witness the horrors first hand. Also like ‘Straight Outta Compton’ it is driven by powerful performances by the younger actors. Alicia Vikander is one of those actresses that people are starting to see everywhere, and rightfully so. She was amazing in ‘Ex Machina,’ stunning in ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and just plain outstanding in ‘Testament of Youth’ as Vera Britton (the woman who wrote the memoir on which this film is based) a young woman not content to simply conform to her role in a class conscious society. It’s also great to see ‘Game of Throne’s’ Kit Harrington in here as Vera’s fiancée Roland Leighton, who is among the first to volunteer for the frontline when World War I breaks out; and ‘Kingman’s’ Taron Edgeron as Edward Britton, Vera’s brother who also signs up.
The structure of the film is very effective. The first act focuses around the idea that the main characters have their whole lives ahead of them. Vera is a young woman who wants to go to Oxford rather than simply being a proper young lady who finds a husband as her father wants her to do. Her brother Edward intercedes on her behalf and offers to share his Oxford allowance his her so that she can get her higher education and follow her dream of being a writer. The film also does a great job with the romance between Roland and Vera. They challenge and encourage each other, making them a strong couple. The terrific set up of the characters makes it that much more devastating when the War hits and their lives are torn apart. It supports Vera’s motives when she gives up the Opportunity at Oxford, something she had worked very hard for to become a nurse helping the wounded soldiers. The cinematography in the film is both breathtakingly beautiful and mixed with images dying soldiers. There is a particular powerful scene in the film when Vera goes to the frontlines in France and finds herself taking care of German Soldiers. It shows the motivation that the real life Vera Britton had to become a pacifist. There are parts where the film feels like an adaptation with important parts left out, but at least it’s a decent adaptation.
‘Testament of Youth’ began playing at the Neon on August 14. It will continue to play at least until August 20. It is definitely worth seeing in the theaters. This film would be a great watch for high school and college students who are studying World War I, and they should probably read the book too. It will certainly be work adding to a DVD/Bluray collection when it comes out, though people will most likely have to order it online.