Take a Drink: for letters and poetry
Take a Drink: for glances full of longing
Take a Drink: whenever Vera says something overly direct or scandalizing
Take a Drink: for horrors of war
Do a Shot: when the movie kicks you square in the crotch
Do a Shot: when you realize that’s Dominic West’s native accent
By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
Testament of Youth pulls one of the ballsier bait & switches of the year, if not the ballsiest. Let’s just say, this is not the date night movie you’re looking for.
Oh, Kit Harrington…
The film begins as a romance between two attractive young folk, Vera Brittain (Alicia Vikander) and Roland Leighton (Harrington). Then, as these films are wont to do, a World War happens. If you know who Vera Brittain is, you know what happens next. If you don’t, then that’s double the reason to give this a watch.
The first act does a better than average job of its prime marketing point- that romance between intelligent, strong-willed Vera and sensitive poet Roland. Their easy chemistry is supplemented by director James Kent’s oversight of the film’s handsome costuming and set design and nice mix of intimate handheld and elegant tracking shots, all soft sunbeams and magic hour glow.
Nicholas Sparks, eat your heart out.
When World War I breaks out, it’s not a plot point or an easy melodramatic obstacle, however. As it drags and our opening assemblage of young people see their lives shattered in myriad ways, Vikander’s Vera volunteers as a nurse and begins to come to the forefront of the film.
While Harrington does a good job depicting the insidious damage of PTSD, it’s through Vikander we see the true face of War- all blood and shit and pus. There is no glamour in the trenches, and no pride in the field hospitals. When Vikander delivers a climactic anti-War speech, at first nervous, but building in conviction and power as she goes, we are witnessing not just a titanic performance, but an essential thesis statement.
The opening portion is undoubtedly straightforward and predictable, however nicely shot and acted. The rest of the film is unrelenting, and likely a hard watch for many. You’ll want a beer for one of these halves at least.
Come for the pretty people, stay for the hard truths.