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Testament of Youth (10/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 129 minutes.

OK for children.

I went to see this mainly on the strength of Alicia Vikander, whom I had just seen in Ex Machina where she stole the show as a robot with artificial intelligence. I had also seen her in 2012ís A Royal Affair, in which I wrote, ďAlicia Vikander gives a hypnotic performance as Denmark Queen Caroline Mathilda.Ē In Ex Machina, I wrote, ďVikander is the one who carries more of the load because she comes across as extremely sexy, even when you know sheís just a machine.Ē So Iíve seen her in three films to which Iíve given 27 total points out of a possible 30 (9/10 for A Royal Affair, 8/10 for Ex Machina, and 10/10 for this). And the main reason for all those high scores for those films is Vikander. She is not only drop-dead gorgeous, she is as good an actress as Iíve ever seen, obviously worth the price of admission by herself alone.

But this film would be wonderful even without Vikander. Directed by James Kent from a screenplay by Juliette Towhidi based on the memoirs of Vera Brittain (Vikander) in her book of the same name, itís almost hopelessly romantic, but still a realistic tale of Veraís experiences before, during, and after World War I. Although there are virtually no battle scenes, it captures the horror of war as well as any movie Iíve seen.

Kit Harington is richly romantic as Veraís love, Roland Leighton, and Dominic West and Emily Watson give good performances as Veraís parents, who have to deal with such a headstrong young daughter. The rest of the cast is of equally high quality. Rob Hardy (who was also the cinematographer on Ex Machina) photographs Vikander lovingly, accentuating her natural beauty, and also provides atmospheric scenes of the English locales of the 1910s, as well as the trench warfare battlefronts in France and the hospitals where Vera nursed.

I saw this in a screening room at Sony and it was so almost unbearably cold in the screening room (on a rainy night, no less) that I seriously contemplated scooting after the first few minutes. But as the movie segued from the opening scene of Vera on Armistice Day that ended WWI to one of Vera and her brother and two friends in a swimming hole 4 years earlier in 1914 before the outbreak of the war, I was hooked. Thoughts of leaving were the last things I wanted to entertain. There was not one slow moment in this film. On a scale of 10, Iíd like to give this an 11.