Testament of Youth

 

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Vera Brittain’s epic memoir is given a Laura Ashley make-over.

 

Testament of Youth
Grief encounter: Kit Harington and Alicia Vikander

  

Much of the sweep of James Kent’s adaptation of Vera Brittain’s epic memoir is supplied by the music. Max Richter’s orchestral score so dominates this tale of camaraderie, changing times and sacrifice, that the bite of the drama is masked by a misplaced opulence. Rob Hardy’s cinematography is perhaps the real star, but his Athena-styled tableaux would be better suited to a shampoo ad than a tale of war and loss. And here there be meaty components for riveting drama: Vera’s fight for female equality, the dreamy spires of Oxford University and the horrors of the front line of the First World War. And yet it all feels manicured and pruned, as if a galumphing miniseries had been whittled down into a polite TV movie suitable for Sunday afternoon viewing.

 

There are some telling turns from Dominic West and Miranda Richardson, the usual quota of comic cameos of class-conscious aunts and chaperones and the odd daub of bald symbolism. One can but admire Alicia Vikander’s impeccable English accent as Vera (the actress was born in Gothenburg, in Sweden), but we never really connect with her humanity. It prompts one to re-visit Atonement and The Officers’ Ward, both of which tackled similar terrain with far more authenticity – or to check out the double-DVD of the BBC’s Bafta-winning series of 1979.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Alicia Vikander, Kit Harington, Taron Egerton, Colin Morgan, Emily Watson, Hayley Atwell, Dominic West, Miranda Richardson, Joanna Scanlan, Nicholas Farrell, Nicholas Le Prevost, Anna Chancellor, Niamh Cusack, Jonathan Bailey, Alexandra Roach, Charlotte Hope, David Swift.

 

Dir James Kent, Pro Rosie Alison and David Heyman, Screenplay Juliette Towhidi, Ph Rob Hardy, Pro Des Jon Henson, Ed Lucia Zucchetti, Music Max Richter, Costumes Consolata Boyle.

 

BBC Films/Heyday Films-Lionsgate.

129 mins. UK/Denmark. 2014. Rel: 16 January 2015. Cert. 12A.