Alicia Vikander is such a gifted performer that she does not even have to shed a tear for me to start doing so.
Thoroughly mournful from fade in to fade out, Testament of Youth is not so much about war, as it is about a young woman’s resilience in the face of a cruel and cosmic joke.
And Vikander absolutely shines.
The film opens on a close-up of her face, and you can see pain on every muscle of it right away.
It’s pretty clear from the outset, as we are introduced to her brother (Taron Egerton), friend (Colin Morgan) and lover (Kit Harrington), that this will be a story of loss.
And while the first 30 minutes might almost convince you otherwise, as we are presented with some incredibly romantic moments and alluring photography, once the War begins, Alicia Vikander gives such a haunting performance that it proves almost impossible not to cry alongside her.
You are moved not only by her plight, but at the knowledge that it wasn’t only her alone who had her soul ripped apart by war.
During one of the final scenes, set after the conflict has ended, Brittain offers a rousing plea for peace.
“The only way”, she says, “is if we forgive our enemies.”
But we never seem to get that right, forgiveness.
And so as it was in her time, is in ours, and will undoubtedly be for future generations, the madness carries on.
What testament of sadness.