For Reel

Testament of Youth (2014)
September 1, 2015, 1:45 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: James Kent
4 Stars
Testament of YouthTestament of Youth is a devastating rumination about a generation lost, its pacifism reminiscent of the death march of the young soldiers in All Quiet on the Western Front. Adapted from the memoirs of Vera Brittain–which discusses her countless losses during the war and her resistance against being held to feminine expectations–director James Kent treats the material as both a hazy memory and as a cry from the past. Often throughout the picture, Alicia Vikander looks directly at the camera, removed from place and time, a reminder that there is much that a modern viewer can learn from these ghosts of the past. Vikander is spectacular in the role, giving a nuanced performance that evolves gradually. As we meet her, she is a pigheaded young woman who demands to be taken seriously, insisting that she will go to Oxford and never marry. The film and Vikander allows her such immature outbursts without a level of condescension, and in her growth these rages aren’t “tamed”, rather developed and refined by experiences. Cinematography Rob Hardy bathes much of the picture in light–consider, for example, those carefree pre-war scenes–and his camera is always searching for something. Even small conversations are given a sense of immediacy due to the exploratory aesthetic, one that uses movement so that the moments of stillness are rendered almost uncanny.

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