Rated: PG-13 for thematic material including bloody and disturbing war related images. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: June 5, 2015 Released by: Sony Pictures Classics
A well-accoutered British period piece based on Vera Brittain's memoir has its share of visual panache (notable for its lush imagery in the rear of many frames from James Kent's workmanlike direction) and desperation to instill a motif dear to its author where the latter sections hit a patch of cinematic viscosity from an emotional clash in the plotting (set in the early stages of WWI). Though it opens in a smartly understated, if piquant way to help its characters resonate like they did on Vera's iconic pages.
Nonetheless, Testament of Youth starring Alicia Vikander, Kit Harington (best known for HBO's Game of Thrones), as well as Miranda Richardson and Hayley Atwell works pretty well off of suppression as well as a favorable insouciant verve.
Vikander's Vera is a plucky late adolescent who coaxes her parents (Dominic West, Emily Watson) about Oxford entrance exams and brother Edward (Taron Egerton) to enlist in the military when Europe is ravaged by war. Also, her beau Roland (a likable clean-cut, if somewhat dispassionate Harington) joins up along with dear chums (Jonathan Bailey, Colin Morgan). A shaken Vera decides to exit university to be a nursing volunteer, in England and France as the war intensifies.
From Vera's perspective, Vikander (striking in Ex Machina as an admonishing, programmed being) extends a cogent charisma from her varying experiences during a global transformation. A quite watchable, steely presence is evident as her inner life feels like its dying away. It's clear that there is veritable on-screen rapport between Vikander and Harington before a wistful pallor ultimately descends on Juliette Towhidi's screenplay. Even in narrowed roles, Egerton, Bailey and Morgan, besides the more recognizable West and Watson don't go unnoticed.
Atwell and Richardson do even better in back-up with the former as a spunky frontline medical colleague up against increasing carnage and the latter as a nettlesome, if wavering Oxford professor when it comes to understanding a young woman looking for a new hope and positivity in her life. Even if a well-intentioned, romantically-inclined Testament of Youth is constrained (and burdened a bit) by a lasting appearance of anti-war mawkishness.
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