Thursday, November 12, 2015

Movie Review: Testament of Youth (2015)

Testament of Youth (2015) - Directed by James Kent; Written by Juliette Towhidi; Starring Alicia Vikander, Kit Harrington, Taron Egerton, Dominic West, Emily Watson, Colin Morgan.

By Kenny Howell

Vera Brittain's memoir gets the beautiful period piece adaptation, but the content seems a bit scattered to live up to the beloved work.

I haven't actually read the work, Brittain's memoir of what it was like to be alive, in love and trying to survive during World War I. But I can see, based on the material in the film, how it could sweep readers, which it has done for nearly a century. There's love, war, a headstrong woman trying to defy conventions. The fact that it is true, makes it all the more appealing.

The film, however, doesn't grab that appeal. I think maybe because it seems a bit too pleased with how its conventions fit what should be an award bait-y film. Everyone is playing big, and it takes the connection you could have with Vera away.

And you need to connect to her. Brittain is a headstrong woman who doesn't want to settle in and get married just because it is what she is supposed to do. She wants to go to Oxford and get a degree. During that quest, she meets a friend of her brother's named Roland (Kit Harrington). Of course, the two don't like each other much, but they soon bond over their love of great literary works. Just as they are falling in love, and Brittain is getting herself established at Oxford, World War I breaks out. That throws everything in a tailspin, and during that tumultuous time, Brittain is shaped dramatically.

The movie is a feast for the eyes, but a little hollow under the surface. That's not because Brittain's life wasn't important or engaging, Testament of Youth just never felt that way.

Rating: **

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