(M) Directed by James Kent
Starring Alicia Vikander, Kit Harington

by Ben McEachen

War movies are as common as war itself. Trying to show due respect to every personalised portrait of combat gets tough, because themes and insights become repetitive or diluted. Testament of Youth should have destroyed battle fatigue, though, as it is an adaptation of Vera Brittain's memoir - celebrated as England's defining female perspective upon World War I. Yet, despite its stately testimony to war-time survival, director James Kent's cinematic drama doesn't sear consciences.

Before the war, Brittain (Vikander) is a young feminist determined to develop her writing at Oxford. Her independent spirit defies tradition, yet few fireworks erupt. Instead, Kent and screenwriter Juliette Towhidi handle Brittain like a foregone conclusion. Sacrifice, crushed dreams and gender upheaval are oddly understated throughout her tragedy-laced tour of admirable duty.

Like Downtown Abbey shot with designer realism, Testament of Youth suggests more astute assessments than transpire. Vikander and Games of Thrones' Kit Harington give it some as cross-fired lovers, but such emotive elements simmer instead of bombarding our souls with the barbarism and lamentable tutelage of war.

This review was originally published in The Big Issue, Issue 482. To check it out, click here.