Testament of Youth (2014) Review

A young British woman Vera recalls her story from World War I and how she must deal with everything it has thrown at her as she is growing up.

I tried to watch this film for the first time a few weeks ago when it appeared on Netflix as I really did fancy seeing it when it was at the cinema but somehow missed it. Think it only had a quick release. But the first time I tried to watch it I just couldn’t get into it. when I realised that Alicia Vikander was in the leading role thought it must be worth another attempt.

I was certainly right about that, so I guess something good came out of watching The Danish Girl!

Everything all started in a very innocent spring with Vera enjoying the company of her brother Edward and his friends. Especially Roland who she falls in love with, they share a passion for wanting to write and this is something that sees their relationship blossom and grow as they keep in touch by writing letters to each other. Vera is very outspoken for the time and has plenty of things she wants to achieve and do, the main thing to attend Oxford. Something that her father is very against, it takes help from Edward for him to even let her take the entrance exam. But as you think everything is starting to fall into place the War is going to take everything away from them all, as the young men must be sent to help fight for their country.

The film took quite a few turns that I was not expecting and was so much more depressing than I ever imagined, I think that should be a warning to anyone who watches this film as it really does appear to be about a great love story. It still has that but not in the way you will want it, the thing is though this story feels so real and helps to show the devastation war can cause for people and how many are effected by it all. Vera even put her dreams on hold to be closer to her brother who was fighting in France being a nurse for the wounded.

I found the first 45-50 minutes pretty slow going but I understand it was really trying to build up the characters so that we would care about them, but trust me and make sure you keep watching. I mean it was even my second attempt after turning it off after about 15-20 minutes on my first attempt but stick with it for the performance from Vikander if nothing else. I think something that made me unsure of this film was Kit Harington as I am not really his biggest fan, but he was good enough in this. I have quickly become a fan of Vikander after watching quite a few of her films in a short space of time. The same can be said for Taron Egerton I am very interested to see what he does next.

I think the film is an important one to really show what women had to suffer through during the War as it often isn’t something that is mentioned enough in my opinion. It is horrendous how many men died, especially the very young men. But that doesn’t mean it was easy for the women (and parents) they then left behind. It has to be remembered how hard it was for everyone. Films based around the First and Second World War’s really do capture my interest.

Another thing I really hate is that we have totally lost the art of writing letters, a film like this shows how much people depended on them even if it could take weeks and weeks to reach the destination but imagine the excitement of eventually receiving a reply. I used to have pen friends and it really was a different experience to sending an email or text message, but I guess this is something that is now a lost art. I am certainly showing that I am a romantic at heart with this whole letter thing but its special as someone has taken the time with a pen to write you something special. Who’s with me in bringing this back?

I actually reached the point where I didn’t think it was possible for anything else bad to happen and I had even tried to fool myself that a mistake was made, but I guess that would have been the Hollywood ending! Another thing I must mention is a very good percentage of the cast being British, showing what great talent we have! I really do recommend that you watch this one (stick with it, trust me).

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12 thoughts on “Testament of Youth (2014) Review

  1. Glad you stuck through it. This was in my top 15 of last year and I think one of the most underrated films. I was really moved by it and saw lots of comparisons between the conflict in ww1 and current conflicts. I also agree with you about the art of writing letters. This movie does show that loss. I liked how it wasn’t super preachy on the anti-war front but merely shows this women’s story and how she came to know the enemy and hate war.

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  2. SPOILER ALERT

    First of all I want to thank you for reviewing this movie as it was a total travesty the way this movie was treated.This film got excellent reviews on both sides of the pond when it was released.Alicia Vekander’s acting was unbelievable, yet the whole movie was just trashed by the distributors.When it was released in the USA(it was a 2015 movie here) it made a pathetic 39000 USD in the first two weeks.Not because it was a bad movie but because the distributors released it when there were no movie theater places to view it.I am not embarrassed to say that I love this movie and I would put it on the top of my one of the best ever movies seen. My grandfather was killed in the Battle of the Somme(same world War 1 battle featured in the movie).My Mum told me the story of the box, the box that changed their lives forever as a family, but that’s another very very sad story.I really never believed her and put it down to old age and dreaming, however I watched this movie and My God! there was the box.She wasn’t dreaming. You probably wont even know what I am talking about but in the scene where Alicia Vekander goes back to her fiancées house and sees the box of his belongings which had been sent back from the front.This is where she finds her letters in his uniform jacket.This was where you get introduced to the box.Dreaded by many families later in the war.
    In my grandfathers case, My grandmother got this box and although they knew that he was dead, they had no idea what this box was. My mother and her three brothers, with my grandmother, sat around the dining room table to see what was in the box.There were no markings on the outside of the box to suggest what was inside.
    When it was opened the whole family were horrified to find it contained the uniform my grandfather died in which was still covered in dried blood and contained no legs to the bottom of his trousers.Clearly his legs were blown off.
    I know the beginning of this movie was slow, but it was meant to be(see the directors interview on the DVD).It was full of color and was meant to depict young people just enjoying their lazy summer.As the movie intensifies the color also diminishes as it becomes so sad.I think the opening was amazing when it starts with Alicia Vekander just staring at the camera. Not many people know that Vera Brittens daughter is still alive and very well known in the UK, but most people don’t get the connection.The retired Labour MP Shirley Williams is her daughter.Excellent movie.So very very sad the way it was treated.Great review.Thank you.

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    • Yeah it didn’t get a massive release in the UK either really as only lasted a week or two at the most. I think if it was released now and the good buzz around Vilkander (she’s just been nominated for two BAFTAs as well as the rising star). Hopefully it will get a good audience on Netflix. The scene with the box was awful and you’ve confirmed it really happened like that, can’t think of anything worse than being sent the uniform that someone died in 😦

      I knew you really loved this film, and glad I gave it a second chance as very different to what is first expected. I’ve seen a few comments from people thinking it was going to be the same as Atonment.

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      • I have two copies of the book.One is a first edition.If you want I can send you the ISBN number.I think she wrote the book some 30 years later,however I think there were a total of three books.TOY was on the times best sellers list for weeks and weeks, however there were bits of the film not in the book.
        At the end of the book where she goes to the pacifist meeting, the gent who was the organizer I think she marries.There was also A BBC TV series about TOY.Not very good though.

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  3. This was one of my favourite films of 2014 and luckily saw it at the LFF. I agree that it had a poor release in the UK but not totally unexpected as the distributors seem to favour blockbusters, action movies and remakes. I think that this is Alicia Vikander’s best English film to date although I did like Ex-Machina and she definitely gave a great performance in the mainly disappointing Danish Girl. Totally agree about the lost art of writing letters.

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    • Really pleased this was one of your favourites from 2014! I agree that this is Vikander’s best English film so far, I wasn’t a big fan of Ex Machina but she was very impressive!

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