Testament of Youth is a 2014 British drama film based on the First World War memoir of the same name written by Vera Brittain. The film stars Alicia Vikander as Vera Brittain, an independent young woman who abandoned her Oxford studies to become a war nurse; as well as Kit Harington as her suitor and love interest Roland Leighton, a tenderhearted soldier with a poet's soul, and Taron Egerton as her idealistic younger brother Edward Brittain. It also features Colin Morgan as friend Victor Richardson, Dominic West as Mr Brittain, Emily Watson as Mrs Brittain, Miranda Richardson as Oxford educator Miss Lorimer, and Hayley Atwell as war nurse Hope.
Testament of Youth contains examples of:
- Almost Kiss: Roland and Vera's first date is heavily guarded by Vera's chaperone, her aunt Belle. They steal away from her and nearly kiss, before Belle finds them and reproves them for their behaviour. (They're only amused in response.)
- Bittersweet Ending: The ending has many elements of a Downer Ending. Vera is suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder and lost her fiancé, brother, and close friend to war. She makes a compelling speech in the name of peace, but there remain English citizens who hunger for violent retaliation against the Germans post-war. That another World War occurs in the future is, of course, a Foregone Conclusion for viewers. She goes to the places where she, Edward, Victor, and Roland used to spend time together in. Finally, she takes a swim alone, unlike the film's opening scene wherein she was swimming with Edward and Victor. Despite all of this, there is an atmosphere of hope and fresh beginnings, and it's clear that she takes to heart what another woman who helped in the war said to her: that they all have ghosts, but will have to live with it. Prior to the credits, the film mentions that Vera did live longer, married, had children, and wrote a bestselling and highly regarded memoir.
- Gone Horribly Right: Vera is adamantly supportive when her brother expresses his wishes to join the other young men in the armed forces. Near the end of the film, after Edward's death, she bitterly laments having fought for his enlistment.
- Historical Beauty Update: The main cast lend their movie-star good looks to historical figures, per big-name media casting tradition. Particularly noticeable are the Brittain siblings, who bear scarce resemblance to their roles' real-life counterparts. Alicia Vikander has a much swarthier complexion and more delicate features than the real Vera Brittain; and the real Edward Brittain did not possess Taron Egerton's classically handsome looks, with Egerton's square jaw and finely chiseled features.
- Honour Before Reason: Why Edward is positively eager to fight in the war, as well as why Vera helps him convince their father to let him go. She later regrets it, urging citizens who clamour for vengeance to consider whether their attitude towards war is really "the right thing; the honourable thing".
- The Lost Lenore: Roland to Vera. Even more tragically, she's informed of his death on their wedding day in the film.
- The Muse: Roland writes several beautiful, and some heartbreaking, poems about or/and for Vera.
- Quirky Curls: The spirited, "odd" younger Vera has long, curly hair that becomes limp and unkempt as she goes through a depressive spiral. Edward also has very curly (although a shorter cut, of course) hair in the opening scenes, but it progressively grows sleeker while he matures.
- Romantic Runner-Up: Victor excitedly mentions a girl named Molly in a conversation with Vera. The latter eventually discovers that Molly was an entirely fictitious being, made up so Vera would not feel sorry for Victor and his unreciprocated romantic feelings toward Vera. He's a badly injured, lonely war hero at the point and she a nurse with a dead lover, however, so she takes pity on him nevertheless and even makes a shaky proposal. Victor unanimously rejects it.
- Tsundere: During one of Roland's first visits at the Brittain household, Vera snaps and closes her bedroom door at him. In her bedroom, she's shown smiling right after the encounter. The script notes that she finds Roland's confidence both riling and attractive.
- Younger Than He Looks: Roland in particular is noted in the script to give off an aura of earthly maturity beyond his real age, no doubt aided by Dawson Casting.