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Movie Review: 'Testament Of Youth'


The book "Testament Of Youth" was first published in England in 1933, and it's never gone out of print. It's by Vera Brittain, one of the few memoirs of World War I from a woman's point of view. Now it's been turned into a feature film, and our critic, Kenneth Turan, has this review.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: "Testament Of Youth" sweeps you away. It tells the kind of deeply involving story whose complexities can only come from a real life that's lived through them all. Key to the film's success is the all-out performance by Alicia Vikander, very much the actress of the moment following her charismatic work in "Ex Machina." She's thrown herself unreservedly into the role of Vera and pulled everyone else along with her. The year is 1914, and Vera's feminist spirit is visible almost immediately as she clashes with her parents over her dream of being a rare woman student at Oxford. Vera insists she never wants to marry anyone. Then, one of her brother's friends, handsome, sensitive Roland, played by Kit Harington of "Game Of Thrones," walks in the door. The connection between them is immediate. But this relationship is not going to be easy.


ALICIA VIKANDER: (As Vera Brittain) If it's friendship you want, that's fine with me. I prefer clarity, that's all.

KIT HARINGTON: (As Roland Leighton) Vera, let's agree, no more fear.

VIKANDER: (As Vera Brittain) No more fear.

TURAN: In the background of all this is the buildup to world war. Suddenly, everyone's lives get very serious very quickly. And one by one, all the young men in Vera's life volunteer for what they think will be a few months of military service. Here, she agrees to help her beloved brother get their father's permission to enlist.


TARON EGERTON: (As Edward Brittain) I need your help.

VIKANDER: (As Vera Brittain) Tell me.

EGERTON: (As Edward Brittain) I've been talking to father about signing up.

VIKANDER: (As Vera Brittain) Already?

EGERTON: (As Edward Brittain) This is what we trained for.

TURAN: What makes Vera Brittain's story so exceptional is the fluid way all the elements in her life - the passionate feminism, a love story, her terrifying work as a front-line nurse - naturally flow together. The "Testament Of Youth" we see is an exceptional romance. But it's a romance with a considerable amount on its mind, a romance with lessons for our time as much as for hers.

MONTAGNE: The movie is "Testament Of Youth." Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kenneth Turan is the film critic for the Los Angeles Times and NPR's Morning Edition, as well as the director of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes. He has been a staff writer for the Washington Post and TV Guide, and served as the Times' book review editor.
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