Testament of Youth (Sony Pictures Classics, PG-13)

Testament-of-Youth 75Testament of Youth is somewhat generic (get ready for lots of soft focus!), but solidly-made, and perfectly enjoyable.

Testament-of-Youth 500

Testament of Youth is an art house, WWI-set feminist pacifist melodrama. Both its ad campaign and the finished film feel like the type of period piece we’re treated to a couple of times a year, which films are usually released by Sony Pictures Classics (as this one is), but this one has elevated visibility on account of its two stars: our lead is Alicia Vikander, who it seems like everyone is in love with after Ex Machina opened a few months back, and her love interest is Kit Harington, aka Jon Snow from Game of Thrones. As such, more people will find themselves willing participants in the audience than would likely otherwise see a period melodrama such as this.

And while you could argue that I’m Team Ava myself, I do like the occasional period melodrama, and am happy to report that Testament of Youth is an above-average one; I’d venture that any of the aforementioned unusual audience members that happen into this movie because they love Jon Snow won’t be bored or sorely disappointed, anyway.

The film is an adaption of Vera Brittain’s memoir of the same name. Here Vikander, a Swede, plays Brittain, a Brit (duh), who is a headstrong young girl of an aristocratic family, and wants to go to Oxford University just as World War I is beginning. After a struggle to prove herself she gets in, as does Harington’s Roland, but the war of course puts a damper on their plans to enjoy college life.

Throughout the film I kept finding myself wanting to compare it to An Education, which isn’t entirely apt, apart from that both are period pieces about smart young British girls who want something more from their life. Still, the fact that I kept trying to force that comparison onto Testament of Youth says something about my level of enjoyment, as I’m a noted fan of An Education.

Ultimately, Testament of Youth is somewhat generic (get ready for lots of soft focus!), but solidly-made, and perfectly enjoyable. If your draw is only Vikander or Harington (or both), you’ll be pleased to know that both turn in decent performances, and you’ll see some other friendly faces along the way: Dominic West (McNulty from The Wire), Emily Watson, Miranda Richardson, Taron Egerton (Eggsy from Kingsman: The Secret Service), etc. And if what brings you to the theatre is less the cast and more a love for period pieces and/or melodramas, Testament of Youth is better than average, and more thoughtful besides. | Pete Timmermann

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