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Testament of Youth (DQ)

9/10

Stars: Alicia Vikander, Kit Harington, Taron Egerton, Jonathan Bailey, Hayley Atwell, Dominic West, Emily Watson, Colin Morgan, Miranda Richardson, Anna Chancellor, Henry Garrett

Director: James Kent

Vera Brittain's famous memoir of World War One springs to life in this memorable (anti-)war film that never flinches from the gory realities of a horrific conflict without dwelling them too much.

Swedish actress Alicia Vikander, with an immaculate English accent, is outstanding as Vera, the daughter of an upper-class family who, seeing her brother, fiancÚ and best friend go off to war, throws up her studies (later completed) at Oxford University to serve as a nurse, at first in England, but, from mid-1917, in the horrendous conditions of hospital stations in France.

Later, of course, she became the mother of politician Dame Shirley Williams.

Vikander does a first-class job in capturing the inner steel beneath the English-rose exterior that carried Vera through, while Juliet Towhidi's screenplay never puts a foot wrong.

The whole movie is never less than fascinating, moving smoothly and compellingly from early scenes of an idyllic countryside girlhood through to the mud and blood of life just behind the front lines - and full of moving sequences that speak eloquently of the futility of the four-year conflict that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

David Quinlan

UK 2014. UK Distributor: Lionsgate. Colour by Cinelab.
129 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 12 Jan 2015