|Vikander is stunning in this captivating melodrama.|
Directed by James Kent
Produced by David Heyman and Rosie Alison
Written by Juliette Towhidi (from Vera Brittain’s memoir)
Starring Alicia Vikander, Kit Harrington, Taron Egerton, Emily Watson, Haley Atwell, Colin Morgan, Dominic West and Miranda RichardsonA
Based on the bestselling memoir, Alicia Vikander stars as Vera Brittain, a young woman bent on going to the University of Oxford. Her father (West) is against it, but her brother Edward (Egerton) convinces him to change his mind. Having already met a young Oxford student named Roland Leighton (Harrington), Vera’s future is looking bright, until World War I breaks out, sending her brother and first love off to battle. Naturally, Vera is unable to focus on her studies, so she joins the war effort as a nurse. Through the tough years she endures, waiting to see light at the end of the tunnel. Vera might not come away unscathed, but her future as a pacifist is born from a romance amidst the first World War.
Much has been made of the classical approach to this British film, but the criticisms are ill-fitting for this melodramatic weeper. Director James Kent has previously done TV work, though he transitions to film with ease, displaying a natural touch for this historical material. Alicia Vikander, who is becoming the actress of the year (with possibly seven films out), is a revelation, delivering a complex, shattering portrayal of an amazing woman who became the famed pacifist. While he isn’t the film’s strongest element, Kit Harrington fares well in his limited screen time, and Taron Egerton proves he has more to give than the cocksure swagger he showed in Kingsman: The Secret Service. Meanwhile, the film is simply gorgeous, not unlike recent efforts such as Atonement and The Deep Blue Sea, boasting rich cinematography, fine production design, excellent costume work, and a beautiful score (from Max Richter, no less). Great films often fail at the box office and in the awards game, but Testament of Youth remains one of the year’s best, sadly overlooked, offerings.
Oscar Potential: None