Testament Of Youth DVD Review
What’s It About: Testament Of Youth is a true coming-of-age story set around the First World War and is based on the classic memoir of British writer Vera Brittain.
The story starts in 1914, shortly before the war, and follows the young and spirited Vera through days spent with her loving brother and friends, a burgeoning love affair, and her determination to study at Oxford, against her parents’ wishes.
But when fighting begins, her own life and the lives of her loved ones are turned upside down forever.
Verdict: Testament Of Youth is Swedish actress Alicia Vikander’s first lead role in an English-language film, not that you’d ever dream that given her strikingly self-assured performance.
Of course, she’s already done a number of films in English before this, shining in supporting roles in Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina and alongside Benedict Cumberbatch in WikiLeaks drama The Fifth Estate.
There’s no doubt that Testament Of Youth is Vikander’s breakthrough film though and she is utterly captivating in it.
Her portrayal of Vera is completely without artifice. She portrays her fierce intelligence, her stubbornness, her humanity and much more to stunning effect.
You truly believe her as Vera whatever she’s doing, whether making impassioned pleas to her father to let her go to University, falling in love, or experiencing the horrors of war.
Not only is Vikander capable of a finely nuanced performance, she is also one of those rare actors who have the ability to say so much with barely a look or a flicker of emotion across her face.
By the way, you can also see Vikander in lots of other films this year including the outstanding sci-fi flick Ex Machina and opposite Superman himself Henry Cavill in the spy-action-comedy The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
And if you want to find out more about the year ahead for Vikander, here’s my video on the 10 Actors You Must Watch in 2015!
Vikander is joined by a strong supporting cast who each give subtle, impeccable turns.
Watch out for Game Of Thrones star Kit Harington as Vera’s poetry-writing suitor, Merlin star Colin Morgan as a friend who’s in unrequited love with her, Kingsman: The Secret Service star Taron Egerton as her devoted brother, Broadchurch star Jonathan Bailey as her brother’s friend, Dominic West and Emily Watson as her parents, and Miranda Richardson as her Oxford tutor.
Testament Of Youth is TV director James Kent’s first feature film. And what a wonderfully restrained and delicate debut it is too.
Kent lovingly depicts so many small details that really stuck in my memory.
There’s the humorous montage of Vera and her boyfriend stealing little moments together at cinemas and art galleries while they’re followed by a chaperone.
There’s Vera frantically thumbing through the streams of ‘Fallen In Combat’ pages in the newspaper – pages and pages of tiny type with hundreds of names printed on broadsheet-sized paper.
There’s the close-up of Vera’s face, the sound of her breathing, and the ticking of a clock as she receives a phone call.
There are close-ups of rain hammering the trenches, of a piece of barbed wire, and of mud dripping down a trench wall. Images which are both beautifully simple and powerfully stark, and will likely leave you with a tear in your eye and a lump in your throat.
The film’s behind-the-scenes team all do an absolutely top-notch job including writer Juliette Towhidi, and cinematographer Rob Hardy, whose work you’ve seen already this year in Ex Machina.
Hardy captures skilfully the contrast between life before and during the war.
And do look out for a poignant Gone With The Wind-inspired scene at a hospital too.
The work of costume and production designers Consolata Boyle and Jon Henson not only adds to the film’s authenticity but lends it an incredible richness.
And composer Max Richter provides a suitably moving score.
But I also love the fact that occasionally the film forgoes music and is left to breathe with just ambient sound revealing all we need to know or feel.
Extras: Behind the Scenes featurette.
Final Words: Testament Of Youth is a triumph of restrained and lyrical cinema with a superlative performance at its core.
With the centenary of the First World War last year, the film offers a haunting and fitting tribute to those who lost their lives and those they left behind.
Testament of Youth arrives on Blu-ray and DVD on 25 May 2015 and digitally on 8 May 2015, courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment.