5 hours ago
Monday, 2 February 2015
Film: 'Testament of Youth'
It's a grimly intense film and, at times, predictably sentimental. Not at all poor in any respect, yet I did get the strong feeling that we've seen it all before. Based on true events it may well have been but there's very little that's original to see here. I think one is expected to be heavily involved in and get carried along by the romantic story. In that respect it held my attention not much more than minimally.
The lead is taken by Swedish actress Alicia Vikander, a name which I didn't immediately recognise until seeing that she'd also appeared in 'A Royal Affair' and 'Anna Karenina' (2012), both of which I liked a lot . She does pretty well with the almost entirely humour-free material. I didn't recognise any of the other younger stars either - only knowing the more mature Dominic West and the excellent Emily Watson as Vera B.'s parents, as well as the always fine Anna Chancellor and Miranda Richardson.
The direction of James Kent (plenty of TV work, this being his first feature film) keeps it all moving efficiently enough, there being no over-prolonged scenes. I must mention that the feeling of deja vu came over me most forcibly when a vista scene appeared with a strong resemblance to an iconic image in 'Gone with the Wind' - and for a roughly parallel situation. I can't help wondering if that was deliberate. Rather curious if it was.
The film is quite heavy in the emotional sense, not heavy-going exactly, but after its two-hours-plus was over I rather did long for something a bit airier and lighter...............................6.
*Shirley Williams (now 84), daughter of this Vera Brittan featured in the film, is one of the three most prominent female politicians of my lifetime (the others being Socialist Barbara Castle and, of course, Mrs T.) She's something of a curious figure in my books. I used to be an admirer of her liberal stances on a range of issues in the 1970s when she first started being noticed, first as a member of the then Labour government, and then her defection to what eventually became the Liberal Democratic Party, which she still represents in the House of Lords. However, her ensuing Parliamentary voting record is, for 'progressives and radicals', a disappointing one, as she tends to follow the official Roman Catholic line on 'social issues' - opposing moves for easier abortion, easier divorce and all gay adoption, and most recently opposing equal marriage. (Strangely, her lifelong, deeply-held religious faith did not prevent her getting divorced and re-marrying while her first husband was still alive!). Additionally, during the furore after 'The Satanic Verses' was published she seemed to be taking the line that Rushdie only had himself to blame for writing that particular piece of fiction. I wonder what her mother would have thought of any of these attitudes. One can only surmise.