TESTAMENT OF YOUTH


Director: James Kent Screenwriter: Juliette Towhidi Starring: Alicia Vikander, Kit Harington, Taron Egerton, Miranda Richardson, Dominic West, Emily Watson, Joanna Scanlan, Colin Morgan, Hayley Atwell, Jonathan Bailey, Anna Chancellor, Alexandra Roach. 

Nationwide release January 14th Certificate TBC Running time: 129 min.

‘Testament of Youth’  is an adaptation of Vera Brittain’s revered memoir of the same name. Directed by established British producer and film and television director, James Kent (The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister) the film stars Alicia Vikander (A Royal Affair) as Vera, the smart, opinionated, persevering young woman living in a time of war and heartbreaking uncertainty. 

Idealistic and rebellious Vera is determined not to settle into the path her parents (Emily Watson and Dominic West) would have her follow, pianos and marriage at the beginning of the film do more than bore her – she’s furious. Angling for a life as a writer, in the beginning she finds herself battling to join her adoring younger brother Edward (Taron Egerton) in escaping the rolling hills of the English countryside and all it’s frivolities, in favour sitting an entrance exam and attending Oxford. Sure enough her tenacity and unwavering passion to make it happen wins her a place at the prestigious university – a trait that is constant throughout the movie. However there are somethings young Vera has little control over, her heart and the intentions of others to win hers, and a war against Germany. 

 Within 20 minutes of the film Vera is declaring that she has no plans to marry – 30 minutes in and she has two handsome young men stealing longing gazes at her and sliding poems under her door. It’s  Roland (Kit Harington), an affable young man with ambitions to write also who steals her heart, but no sooner than they’re courting is World War I declared. When the war calls for the young men to sign up they do so willingly – Edward, having encouraged his father to let Vera apply for Oxford, is returned the favour when she pleads on Edward’s behalf to join the army. Soon Roland is joining the fray, and later her dear friend and admirer Victor (beautiful, nuanced delivery by Colin Morgan).

 Left behind like many women, be it wives, sisters, mothers and daughters were during the war – no amount of studying appeases her guilt and restlessness for letting them all go. Vera defers her studies, much to the incredulity of her course master (an endearing guest appearance from Miranda Richardson) and takes up a position serving  as a voluntary aid nurse during the four year horror, stationed at different points of the war – ebbing closer and closer to the frontline as her inevitable  heartbreak, pain and growing pacifism will allow.

The films boasts breathtaking scenery from the quaint beauty of the English countryside to the foggy train station platforms. The breaking of the fourth wall during sentimental moments, sometimes in Vera’s memory sometimes for visual and emotive reasons, is reminiscent of a Stephen Poliakoff drama, one of the techniques that makes his works so symbolic of nostalgia is employed in Kents film. The costumes are stunning, never overbearing or in your face, but the attention to detail is truly noteworthy  every stitch, palette and fabric comes together effortlessly. The true star however is Vikander, the native Swede is remarkable. Beautiful and defiant in the titular role. To look at her you may be forgiven for believing that such a well known, seminal and important story is too much for her petite shoulders – but she pulls it off, and in the midst of an impressive cast of established and exceedingly talented rising British talent, she more than holds her own and the entire film.

 

The Woman in Black: Angel of Death (12A)

The Woman in Black: Angel of Death

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UK National release:January 1st  Rating:(12A)Runtime: 98 mins

Director:Tom Harper Writer:Jon Croker Cast:Phoebe Fox, Jeremy Irvine, Helen McCrory, Adrian Rawlins, Leanne Best, Ned  Dennehy, Oaklee Pendergast.

Admittedly this second chapter in the Hammer Horror series of The Woman in Black, loses some of its appeal without the draw of Daniel Radcliffe, but as far from being a disappointing sequel of a lacklustre first installment  Angel of Death story is similarly mediocre. This isn’t a criticism of the actors, director or even the final film itself; it’s an observation that since the first – there really wasn’t much more to say about the gruesome Woman and her penchant for offing off young souls.  Continue reading

The Theory of Everything (12A)

The Theory of Everything.

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 UK National release:January 1st  Rating:(PG)Runtime: 118 mins

Director:James Marsh Screenplay:Anthony McCarten
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, David Thewlis, Tom Prior, Charlie Cox and Maxine Peake.

The Theory of Everything, directed by James Marsh, is not quite  the biopic of the theoretical physicist  that some may first think. Neither is it an adaptation of how he came to write his groundbreaking bestseller, ‘A Brief History of Time';  this film centers predominantly on Hawking’s early years as a Cambridge fellow, upon meeting his first wife Jane, and the magnificent beginnings of both Hawking’s notoriety as a theorist and his equally unique story of being diagnosed with a form of Motor Neuron Disease (Lou Gehrig’s Disease)  and surviving well past the maximum two years he was expected to live.    Continue reading

INSIDE OUT TRAILER

Last week I posted the teaser for Pixar and Disney’s new film Inside Out. The animation Gods and Kings have bestowed a more lengthy trailer , released in June next year, and it’s looking like a great comical adventure centred on how our emotions come to play.

Disgust, Anger, Fear, Sadness and Joy – basic human emotions that Pixar can manipulate into a nice little package – but common sense tells me it will go beyond the smooth running of control desks and button pushing. People are more complex than that and Pixar are so good at conveying those complexities onscreen (almost too good) that I’m sure something major happens that throws these little creatures into disarray.

The central character is Riley, a child, so it’s safe to say there’ll be plenty of material to work through on that side of things. Commonly at a young and impressionable age we’re overwhelmed with choices and grapple to make sense of how we feel and why feel the way we do – it’s a formative period, so the raging emotions will probably get her into all sorts of scenarios. Looking forward to it.

SHEPPARD – GERONIMO

This happy song reminds me of Arcade Fire, FUN, The Guillemots and Of Mice and Men all rolled into one. So good at helping to brighten up the dark days of winter. 

Hailing from Oz (Brisbane to be exact) Sheppard was initially a sibling duo – George and Amy Sheppard, the band expanded to include one other sibling and three other band members.  Already clocking a number 1 in Australia, hit album with a platinum status they on their way to international recognition in 2015.