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A long, long time ago, back in the spring of 1914, they were so happy together. There was Vera Brittain, an upper class girl with ideas of her own; and her bright brother Edward; and his group of friends among whom Roland Leighton, wonderful, handsome, sensitive Roland Vera had fallen for... Always having great times together talking, laughing, exchanging ideas, walking, eating, swimming together; all of them envisioning the glittering future they deserved: Vera, despite her father's opposition, would study at Oxford, marry Roland and be a famous writer; Roland, as for him, would be acclaimed as a great poet while Edward and his friends would each become a prominent figure in his respective field... But then came that fateful day on 4 August 1914 when Britain declared war on Germany. All those beautiful dreams were to be shattered one after the other. All except one: Vera wound up becoming a writer... A writer but a pacifist as well. Written by
As Roland and Vera meet in late 1914 before he leaves for France, Aunt Belle notices that Roland is sick and she talks about how influenza is ripping through the troops and it's in all the newspapers "Spanish Influenza they call it." The earliest known case of what would only later be called the Spanish flu was in March of 1918--and reports of the plague were zealously suppressed in the press of the belligerent nations for fear that it damaged morale. The only reason the disease, which actually was first documented in Kansas, was named "Spanish Flu", was because Spain was neutral in the war and the Spanish papers were free to report cases, giving the wrong impression elsewhere that Spain was hit first and harder by the disease. See more »
At college, more than anywhere else, one was likely to make the friendships that supported one through life.
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Heartbreaking Portrayal of Love and Loss During War
I first read "Testament of Youth" during university and was captivated by the emotionally moving real-life story of love and loss during war. The memoir spurred me on to read more about Vera Brittain, particularly during the World War I period that is the setting of "Testament of Youth." Having read her diary "Chronicle of Youth" and "Letters from a Lost Generation" long before watching this film, I had formed a strong attachment to Vera Brittain almost as if she was a personal friend. Reading her words, it is very easy for anyone, particularly a young, studious person to relate to her and the blossoming romance she describes between herself and her first love, Roland Leighton.
As such, I had extremely high expectations for this film, and was skeptical that Alicia Vikander and Kit Harington would be "my" Vera and Roland--I had such a fixed idea of them in my head. Fortunately Alicia and Kit's performances met my expectations. They had wonderful chemistry and the relationship as portrayed captured the essence of Vera and Roland: the intelligent, witty banter, sweet/innocent flirtatiousness, passion and angst. This relationship is at the heart of the memoir and is the driving force for much of what occurs during and after its commencement, so it was very important for this relationship to be portrayed accurately and to be emotionally moving for the audience, which it certainly was for me.
Supporting characters played by Taron Egerton (Edward) and Colin Morgan (Victor) were also wonderfully portrayed, which was a relief as the relationships with her brother and friend are extremely important in the memoir as well, and just as emotionally moving as the romance between Vera and Roland. As far as the other aspects of the film are concerned, the stirring scenes at the hospital where Vera volunteers as a nurse are gripping and faithfully portray the tumultuous wartime experiences that Vera describes in her memoir.
The highlight for me was the poetry of Roland which is interwoven during key moments in the film. This is a lovely element to the story that I found very touching and it provides a beautiful, emotional backdrop for key scenes.
I really hope this film spurs those who haven't read the memoir/have never heard of Vera Brittain to go on and read "Testament of Youth." The book certainly lingered in my mind for quite some time after I had first read it, and the film likewise recaptured those feelings for me.
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