This 2015 movie is based on the First World War memoir by Vera Brittain and stars Alicia Vikander and Kit Harington. The story encompasses many themes – youth, hope, dreams, love, despair, war and the horror and futility of war, tragedy and rising above it all.
The opening scene shows Vera Brittain (Vikander) trying to seek solace in a church amongst the crowd’s yelling and cheering and cars honking on Armistice Day in Nov 1918. We are then transported back to a time four years earlier as Vera recalls the spring/summer during which she shared her dream of becoming a writer with her brother and his friends, including Roland Leighton (Harington).
However, her hopes of going to Oxford with Roland is thwarted: War is declared and he enlists; she volunteers to be a nurse, even nursing the Germans. He is killed, and she writes this memoir to record her wartime experiences.
This movie is beautifully made. All the actors (including Talon Egerton as Edward, Vera’s brother, Colin Morgon as Victor Richardson, Edward’s friend who is secretly in love with Vera, and Emily Watson as Vera’s mother) are good, especially Vikander. There are many big scenes, which involve lots and lots of extras, all contributing to the authenticity of the plot.
The cinematography is lush – the gorgeous Brittain family home, the vast pastures and paths surrounding it, the long and wide roads, hills and heather, the calm blue sea. All feast for the eyes. Adding to the visual effects are the costume designs, great make-up and hair designs, and of course, music and poetry. I love the use of Chopin and Dvorak and the quotes from Chaucer and Leighton.