Testament of Youth | 2015 | PG-13 | - 3.7.1
Based on a World War I memoir: an English woman (Alicia Vikander) delays her degree at Oxford University to volunteer as a military nurse attached to the army. After the war she enrolls in Oxford where she becomes a writer, feminist and anti-war advocate. Also with Dominic West, Hayley Atwell, Kit Harrington, Emily Watson and Taron Egerton. Directed by James Kent. [2:09]
- A completely nude soldier in a hospital encampment is shown in profile in a long shot standing in the rain and mud, moaning and muttering; one thigh and his hands conceal the genital area as nurses lead him back into a barracks ward. A grimy soldier receiving a sponge bath in a hospital reveals bare chest, abdomen and a little pubic hair; a little blood splatter is evident in the grime on his chest and we see deep scratches. A woman wears a corset that reveals slight cleavage and a floor length slip in her room as she imagines in a daydream a man's throat, neck, upper chest in an open shirt as the man slips a poem under her door (we do not see or hear the words). A marble statue of a female nude includes arms and hands covering breasts and genitals. A woman looks at a Dali-esque painting depicting dead men and women, some of them partially nude but in shadows, with arms or garments hiding breasts and crotches. A woman under water in a lake removes her outer blouse and swims in a blouse and long skirt; later, we see one man shirtless in profile.
► A man and a woman kiss passionately for several seconds in three scenes and in the third scene he proposes and she accepts before they kiss. A female chaperone closes a male soldier and her niece into a train compartment so they may kiss passionately for several seconds before he must board another train and travel to the war front.
► A man and a woman hold hands on a date but the woman's aunt sits between them; he reaches behind the aunt and tickles the younger woman's neck. A man and a woman hold hands in a café.
► A mother finds her adult daughter and a man talking on a garden path and asks what is going on; the man asks to see her daughter again with a chaperone. A woman's brother asks her about a relationship between her and another man and she is noncommittal. A nurse proposes to a friend who is a patient and he declines.
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- A few battlefield scenes include hundreds of wounded and dead men lying twisted on the ground in mud and rain; we see ripped throats with gore and blood covering the necks, shoulders, and ground and some men's faces are partially missing, showing raw red flesh, gore, and blood; after one battle, the camera from a viewpoint above the scene shows hundreds of stretchers filling the field, holding dead and living men in torn uniforms, some missing shoes, and most missing their helmets.
► A badly wounded soldier lies on a blood soaked pillow and blood covers his hospital bunk and uniform; we see a gaping wound in his neck that shows blood and some torn flesh as a nurse applies pressure to it, blood flows, and he hallucinates of his fiancée. A surgeon removes a bullet from a man's back and we see some blood dripping. We hear the words of a poem and see a flashback of a man finding a dead and twisted soldier's legs and feet sticking out from a pile of leaves fallen from a tree; violets had grown around him. A battlefield flashback shows a wounded man comatose as another man applies pressure to his wound.
► Several scenes in two hospitals show beds placed close together in rooms and hallways filled with bandaged and/or bleeding men many of them cry out in pain, fear or delirium (many wear bandages on their heads or faces, several arms are in slings and one broken arm is in traction); we hear groans, mutterings, and screams and some soldiers stare blankly into space, while others become hysterical and mumble while nurses' and doctors' uniforms are covered in splattered blood and gore; one man has a bandaged stump of an arm that is bleeding from the wound and at night he raises it and screams, many legs appear burnt, look ripped and we see black and red flesh and blisters while blood covers some faces, necks, and throats and some faces are black and red with burns; some entire faces are covered with white bandages except for a breathing hole and a man has a wooden leg below a bloody bandage on his knee.
► A civilian man is in a military hospital and a nurse who is his friend finds him with his head and eye covered in bandages; he is blind and in a few days a nurse announces that he died after reporting that he heard a clicking inside his head. A woman sees a man sitting in a wheelchair and he has no legs (his robe covers the thigh stumps) as another man walks on crutches and an older woman says that Spanish Flu is ripping through the army as well.
► Nurses in a barracks room are seen carrying blood soaked gauze and bandages in metal pans and burn old bandages in a large oven while a doctor gives CPR outside and an air raid siren sounds as more soldiers arrive for treatment; an instrument sterilizer steams and nurses lay out instruments on clean trays.
► Several scenes and flashbacks of men in trenches during WWI show rain, deep mud, grim faces, some blank expressions, and many of the men holding rifles with bayonets attached; their faces, hands and fingernails are grimy and both sides of the trenches at the top of wooden reinforcements carry barbed wire that we see in close-up. We see flashes of mortar fire and bombs lighting up hospital rooms at night. A nurse has nightmares about her work at the battlefields, tossing and turning as she sees visions of men waiting for battle in filthy trenches. A woman sees a vision of her deceased fiancé between sheets on a clothesline.
► As a reaction to his battle experiences, a man strikes a woman and she falls to the ground tearfully, she rises and hugs him and tells him she is real, and battle memories are not. A woman punches her adult brother in the stomach, not harming him. Men playing college rugby pile onto a man in mud and rain. No one is hurt.
► A woman looks at a Dali-esque painting depicting dead men and women, some of them partially nude but in shadows; bodies bend backwards over tree limbs or lie curled on the ground, many looking dead or dying with no blood visible.
► A father wails after receiving a telegram that his son died in war and the man's daughter runs outside, removes her shoes and stockings, steps into thick black mud, lies in it, and smears her face with it. A mother wails when she receives her dead son's uniform and his fiancée rips it apart. At a train station, a man's son rides off to war and the father stands facing a wall, crying uncontrollably. A woman receives a telegram and sways unsteadily (her brother died in war) and another woman holds her up. A woman receives a phone call from a woman who says, "He's dead" and the younger woman stares into space, her eyes welling with tears, and she drops the receiver; the camera cuts to her sitting at home in a near-catatonic state and she imagines herself standing hip-deep in the ocean in expensive clothing, staring out to sea. A nurse hears that her brother died and was brought to her hospital; she panics and rips apart coverings on mounds of dead bodies on the ground and on stretchers and we see many staring, dead eyes; she finds her brother and his wounds are treated. An elderly man buries the uniform of his son, who died during WWI, in his yard.
► A family hears that a soldier relative of theirs died in battle. A soldier's fiancée questions doctors and the dead man's hospital roommate, who has an arm in a sling; she learns that the man was shot in the abdomen by a sniper and was lying for hours before he died and that morphine was not available until the very end. A wounded soldier dies and a nurse opens a window and says, "To let his soul escape." A soldier apologizes to a nurse, thinking that she is his fiancée, for going to war and in general. A woman is sullen and snappish with study partners; another woman tells her, "We are surrounded by ghosts," and that she should bathe, get up and get dressed, eat, and start anew. After WWI, a woman takes the stage at a political debate and shouts down the people who want to "Make the Germans pay" for waging war; she says that war may not be right and honorable as they shout, mumble, and then become quiet when she says that revenge just creates more war and loss of life, ruining the lives of the soldiers' family and friends as well.
► We hear that not enough surgeons are available for all the wounded and sick in this war. A series of newspaper headlines include "Archduke Shot," "German Ultimatum to War!," "Intense Fighting At Flanders." A newspaper page header reads "Fallen In Battle" and it lists long columns of the dead.
► We hear that a man said he would rather hold a gun to his head than to allow his son to go to war; his daughter convinces him to allow her brother to go and later she argues several times with her fiancé about his going to war. A woman slams a piano lid in anger and argues with her father several times; he belittles her studies and says it is a waste of time to send a woman to college, causing her to throw her books and papers out an upper story window. A strict female college professor tells a female student that women must work twice as hard and be twice as good as men in school and work in order to succeed; she challenges the student to do more and more in her studies.
► A new volunteer nurse suffers belittling from her supervisor because the volunteer, unlike most women, wants to attend college again after the war; the volunteer must sponge bathe a soldier and covers her nose and mouth from the stench.
► A wealthy housewife becomes delirious and goes to bed for weeks when her cook quits and no food is available in the shops during part of WWI; laundry piles up to fill an entire room.
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- 1 mild obscenity, 2 religious exclamations (Oh God, Oh For God's Sake), name-calling (bluestocking, suffragette, debutante's ball, stupid, provincial upstart, odd, cowardly, soft, filthy Hun), stereotypical references to the wealthy, writers, men, women, couples separated by war, soldiers, nurses, college professors, anti-war protestors, feminists, male chauvinists, bigots, the English, Germans.
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- Nurses administer pain medications to wounded soldiers, a nurse injects a shot of morphine into a soldiers arm (the needle is hidden by the cloth of the sleeve), a woman gives a solider two tablets to swallow for a fever and he does so, and we hear a nurse call for antiseptic to treat a soldier's infected leg wound (please see the Violence/Gore category for more details). Two scenes feature a parade on Armistice Day 1918 with a man holding a large bottle of champagne by the neck (no one drinks). A few soldiers smoke cigarettes in a trench and a man smokes a cigarette on a beach, two men smoke pipes, a man holds an unlit cigarette in his mouth, and two nurses share a cigarette in a dormitory room.
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- War, weapons, trench warfare, Spanish Flu, danger, injuries and amputations, Shell Shock/PTSD, anger, grief, loss, regret, determination, courage, sacrifice, relationships, friendship, love, respect, peace, political protests.
- War experiences can enhance a writer's determination to make a difference in the world. War is awful.
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We've gone through several editorial changes since we started covering films in 1992 and older reviews are not as complete & accurate as recent ones; we plan to revisit and correct older reviews as resources and time permits.
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