Testament of Youth Movie Review


Overly emotional, a movie about romantic losses.
The movie is based on a popular memoir of the great war (WWI) recounted by a young lady.
Although the span of 4 years is packed within just 2 hours, certain selected events (memories) are portrayed at a rather steady pace. The foreshadowing of loss leaves the audience feeling sentimental about each happy moment and on the edge of their seats as the stars step into faux pas which will change their fate.

Beautifully cinematic with many zoomed-in, face shots that also zooms in on the heightened emotions of the actors / actresses to further add to the dramatic display of feeling, tears and the outpour of emotion captured in their cathartic light. It’s one of those movies that will definitely move the audience and pull on their heartstrings.
Furthermore, the post-production wonderfully matched and depicted the scenes like poetry, capturing happy times with the rhythm of laughter and dark / sad times with a bitter harshness of the cold wet wind. The movie can truly be heralded as a synesthetic masterpeice!

What the movie unveils extends beyond just to recount romances and tragic lives cut short by the war. It also helps to engage in deep exploration of major themes such as the futility of war, the equality in loss (on both sides of the battlefield), the blind following of old world values (and their effects) as well as the testament of youth (its surprising properties of stubbornness, adaptability and resilience).

The futility of war is the most obvious theme and one that the modern-day audience can definitely connect with. We have seen our world ravished by wars and conflicts arisen from a similar futile nature. The movie highlights this by showing how out of the blue the conflict erupted into the lives of the protagonists, by merely announcing the looming presence through newsstand paper headlines that the protagonists so happen to witness.

The quick call to arms, an “honorable” decision made by all of the male protagonists further serves to evoke the theme “the blind following of old world values.” Even, Vera Brittain, the protagonist who most challenges old world values by defying her own condition to become subjected to a married stay-at-home life by contesting to attend Oxford and become a writer, pushed for her own brother to fight in the war. But who could be at fault? This was a world where honor may have meant more than life itself and also a world unbeknownst to the real and harsh realities of the looming tragedies of long, bloody wars.

The equality of loss on both sides of the battlefield was only brought to surface close to the end of the film when Vera was stationed at a Red Cross camp aiding both British and German soldiers. Her language abilities which allowed her to communicate with them helped her gain a particularly personal insight into their condition and the realization that everyone who’s lives were touched by this war was plagued by the same tragedy of loss.

The testament of youth and its beguiling and often contrasting properties are best embodied by the main protagonist Vera, herself. Her own stubbornness to choose life as a writer in an age of gender inequality, her decision to volunteer for the Red Cross and temporarily give up studies to help in the war, her adaptability to the tasks at hand guided by her beliefs and her own resilience throughout the film to find out the true ending of her fiancĂ©’s life as well as returning to Oxford at the end of the war despite having been plagued by lost generation’s sufferings, remarkably are testaments of youth.
Unlike other lost generation literature / films, the Testament of Youth, while sad does not hint at forever depression or the questioning of what’s life to become. Instead it recounts how and the conditions by which regular people’s lives were pulled into and affected by this futile war. It also seems to gleam into the future more optimism for change as evidenced by the protagonist, Vera’s own actions of voicing an opinion not of the popular beat but one gleaned through her own insights from the war (not to seek further retribution and allow “eye for an eye” dogmatism to stir up more conflict).


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