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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
Vera Britain was the mother of British politician Shirley Williams, who was a Labour MP and cabinet minister, who later left to become a founder of the Social Democratic Party, which merged with the Liberal Party. See more »
Roland was killed in 1915, however, he is pictured fully outfitted in 1916-17 uniform and gear. See more »
Edward was always a good listener, since his own form of self-expression then consisted in making unearthly and to me quite meaningless sounds on his small violin. I remember him, at the age of seven, as a rather solemn, brown-eyed little boy, with beautiful arched eyebrows which lately, to my infinite satisfaction, have begun to reproduce themselves, a pair of delicate question-marks, above the dark eyes of my five-year-old son...
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During the opening credits, World War I guns can be heard in the background. See more »
I remember being given this book as a set text for an English A-Level examination over 30 years ago and am aware that there was a prestigious BBC production of it also several years back but this is the first dramatisation I've seen of Vera Brittain's novel documenting her own experiences in that golden age of post-Edwardian pre WW1 England when for coming-of-age birthdays you got given a piano from your father. That's if you were a girl of course, her more musically gifted brother conversely gets what she would have wanted, a scholarship at Oxford although on the other hand he is also at the the prime age to be called up for what he and most everyone else (but not their knowing father) believes will be a short, heroic and clean war which of course it turned out not to be (apart from the heroic part).
Young Vera is headstrong, not only about wanting to make her own way in a man's world (female emancipation was still years away), but later about making her own contribution to the war effort by enrolling as a nurse while her lover, brother and other male friends are fighting in the trenches. Told wholly from her point of view, it's an entertaining if not enthralling watch, beautifully shot and well acted if somehow just lacking some extra pathos to really capture the hellish undertow of the War to end all Wars.
Alicia Vikander is appealing as the vaguely tomboyish, intellectual Vera. In those days, it would appear, the golden youth had to be chaperoned everywhere by a usually imposing maiden aunt figure and make their feelings about each other known by writing and sending poems as the film strives to contrast the idyllic pre-war days of carefree swimming and carousing with the bleakness and destruction of war itself. For me, I didn't feel the contrast quite sharply enough and my abiding memories of the film are of the big family house and the dreaming spires of Oxford rather than the hell of the makeshift military hospitals and muddy and bloody trenches on the front line.
The best shot for me was when I perhaps detected a tribute to all-time great movie "Gone With The Wind" as Vera goes Scarlett-like amongst the wounded and dying, searching for her wounded brother where the camera ascends into a sweeping dolly shot showing the full extent of the number of the casualties, just like Vincent Fleming's rightly famous take all those years ago.
The supporting actors are picked from the familiar directory of experienced British character actors, notably Miranda Richardson and Emily Watson, while the young actors in the leads, all of them unfamiliar to me, perform with aplomb.
There is a great true-life story to be told here and this film does so respectfully and responsibly, if just a little too carefully at times.
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