I decided to see this movie after two of my friends separately gushed about it to me, but I probably would have seen it anyway. After all, it features so many of my favourite things! World War I, writing, education, feminism.
Testament of Youth is based on the true story of Vera Brittain (Alicia Vikander, Jason Bourne, The Danish Girl), a young woman who, after fighting for a place at Oxford, leaves her studies to become a nurse after her fiancé, Roland (Kit Harington, Game of Thrones, Brimstone), her brother, Edward (Taron Egerton, Eddie the Eagle, Kingsman: The Secret Service), and a number of her friends enlist to fight in World War I.
Testament of Youth is based on Vera Brittain’s best-selling memoir of the same name. Written in 1933, her experiences led her to become a leading feminist and pacifist, and she used her skills as a writer to document her remarkable story.
I realize that WWI might seem like an obscure interest, but it became an unexpected focus of mine when I minored in history as an undergrad. The heart-wrenching poems, memoirs, and testimonies of those who served in various capacities during the war have embedded themselves into my heart.
That being said, I was attached to Vera right from the start, even without already having an obsession with the era Testimony of Youth is set. Had I lived in that era, I would probably have been classified as a “bluestocking”. I love learning, absolutely love it. If I could have gotten paid to go to school, I probably would have chosen that career. And it goes without saying that writing is one of my passions. So the drive that Vera has to write and to learn is something that I immediately connected with. That and her passion for the ones she loves. She fights for them using every skill at her disposal in a time when options for women were few. Suffice it to say, if I could have lunch with someone from history, I like to think that she and I would have a grand old time.
And after lunch, we would go shopping. This fascinating article from Harper’s Bazaar details the parallels between the costume designs and the clothes that Vera wore in real life.
Vera’s dresses are lovely enough without adding the enviable array of coats and hats. Her nursing clothes I’ll pass on, but the rest? GIMME! Seriously, where can I find some WWI-era toques? They need to make a comeback. Why don’t we dress this way anymore, people? Every day was an occasion, I love that!
The men are only briefly clad in their dapper suits before putting on their uniforms for the rest of the film. A choice which, as my friend pointed out, makes them look even younger. A poignant reminder of an era that killed an entire generation of young men.
Can you keep a secret? Between you and me, as much as I love everything that I just raved about, I put off watching this movie. Because I knew it was going to make me cry. Friends who had already seen it warned that they had to take breaks rather than watch it all at once. So when another friend and I sat down to watch it, we were ready (I’m talking coffee-and-comfort-food prepared). And we cried. A lot. But once it was over we turned to each other and casually admitted that we enjoyed it so much we wished there was more!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to add Vera Brittain’s memoirs to my reading list.