This movie is based on The Testament of Youth, a bestselling memoir written by Vera Brittain. The journal features love, desolation and loss during the First World War period. The movie is full of moods of regret as in the memoir with beautiful costumes and well-performed drama.
The film revolves around the life of a forward thinking and noble lady, who abandons her ambitions to support the victims of the war and is persistent enough even if her life is being ripped apart. The underlying message of this film is to keep striving for your dreams even as they seem to slip further away.
This adaptation film marks the debut for James Kent, a documentary maker who introduces Vera (Vikander) under the bright summer skies and the young men in her life. Vikander is up to the challenge presented by the director, the producer David Heyman and the film’s screenwriter Juliet Towhidi. The producer, David Heyman gives the film a high style having worked on the Harry Potter films.
Turning a 661-page journal into a two-hour film meant that the screenwriter had to skip a few parts so as to focus on the events that led to First World War and the War itself. Her activities as a strong pacifist are shown only as a glimpse. The movie starts with a prologue, four years before the war as Vera is enjoying a rural swim with Victor (Colin Morgan) and her brother, Edward (Taron Egerton), reminding a bit Pearl harbor or Timbuktu scenes.
Vikander, who plays Vera, forces her way through and creates her own path against the world that is dominated by men. Her first obstacle is her daddy played by Dominic West, who does not think that a woman is supposed to attend university or offer help during times of war. Her younger brother is sympathetic to her situation and convinces their parents to let her follow her dreams.
It is her brother who introduces her to Roland (Kit Harington) and, therefore, affects her fate. She had vowed that she would not allow romantic feelings to interfere with her ambitions, but when Roland shows up, she is attracted by his gorgeous looks and poetry plus he admires her independence, and this leads to immediate attraction.
Her dream of joining Oxford is short lived as she experiences the nightmare of war. The war means that all her male counterparts, Edward, Victor and Roland have to enlist and go to the battle front. Roland’s departure wrecks Vera as they have developed deep feelings for one another and have even become engaged. Her call of duty is stronger than her desire to study and become a writer: she leaves to offer services as a nurse. Even in her duty, she experiences challenges of suspicion and the horror of war.
Vera is a fascinating person, and Vikander presents a compelling portrayal of her. The director puts together a set of vignettes such as a corrupted wedding day, lovers at the railway and bad news phone calls among others, as a way to familiarise the film with the audience. The film has exceptional performances, but the director does not seem to allow Vera to burst with emotion and present the grief that is growing inside her.