Vera Brittain's Testament of Youth, the famed memoir of the author's time as a nurse during World War I, is now a major motion picture perfectly poised for summer. Leave it to David Heyman, the producer of the Harry Potter films, to put this book on screen. Heyman seems to specialize in coming of age stories, and this one, about a writer, is stunning. A love story set against the epic sweep of war, covering the terrain made famous in the literature of Ernest Hemingway and T. S. Eliot, this film, sad in its revelations about the emptiness of war, takes a grand anti-war stand when Brittain, played exquisitely by the lithe Alicia Vikander speaks to revenge-minded Brits about losses endured by everyone on every side, including Germans. Having lost her dear brother Edward (Taron Egerton), her friend Victor (Colin Morgan), and her poet fiancé Roland (the dreamy Kit Harington), Brittain knows of what she speaks. In our time of drone warfare, WWI appears quaint and bloody with its hand-to-hand combat. If any film is to capture the attention of vacationing crowds, it's this gorgeous movie.
This week's premiere at Hotel Americano and hosted by Interview Magazine was its own testament to youth. Alicia Vikander graciously held court in the rear lobby. A trained ballet dancer, she said she was surprised that the acting part of her career took off. And how! A few years ago, she was noted as a "rising star" when she played the queen of Denmark in a hot extramarital tryst in A Royal Affair. Recently seen in Ex Machina, she has six more movies coming out this year. She laughs, yes something like that. One is Derek Cianfrance's The Light Between Oceans, starring with Michael Fassbender. When asked which directors inspire her, she answers, Lars von Trier, who helped with the Royal Affair script, and Michael Haneke.
Testament of Youth director James Kent made quite a coup with this film, especially in its casting, with Emily Watson, Dominic West, Miranda Richardson, Joanna Scanlan, and others in supporting roles. He was happy to get Vikander when he did before she became too expensive. Dominic West, star of HBO's "The Affair," agreed to the part of Vera's father for less than his normal fee because his nephew interned on the film. Judging by his work on Testament of Youth, it would be hard to imagine anyone saying no to Kent.
Alicia Vikander was eager to introduce her Roland, Kit Harington, center of his own clutch of fans. As Jon Snow in Game of Thrones, he is also a star soaring. And behind him, in the shadows of an alcove, stood her real life beau, Michael Fassbender, who said shooting on the biopic of Steve Jobs now complete, he still can't get over the man's intellect. Then he left the party with the night's bright star.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.