The war drama “Testament of Youth” opened in the US this past Friday, and I don’t understand why more people aren’t paying attention to it for the end-of-year awards race. Yes, I know it’s only summer and most Academy Award-seeking movies come out in the fall when the focus switches from studio tentpoles to Oscar-fodder movies, but “Testament of Youth” has awards pedigree written all over it.
Let’s think about “Testament” in comparison to “The Imitation Game,” which was considered an Oscar shoo-in from the start and ended up with an Academy Award for best adapted screenplay and was nominated in seven other categories:
1. Both are about wars. “Testament” takes place during World War I and “The Imitation Game” during World War II. (“Testament” is about a sheltered but brilliant and artistic young woman who abandons her hard-earned position at Oxford University to become a nurse at the frontlines when all the young men she grew up with enlist to fight.)
2. Both are British (i.e., more prestige points). “Testament” is from BBC Films.
3. Both have emerging European stars. Last year, Benedict Cumberbatch achieved household-name status, and based on her year so far, we could say the same for Alicia Vikander.
4. Both are extremely fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, meaning they’ve found favor with critics. “Testament of Youth” stands at 84% and “The Imitation Game” at 89%.
5. Both are based on books. This is one area where “Testament of Youth” has the edge, since it is based on a beloved book by Vera Brittain. Graham Moore adapted Andrew Hodges’ book (and was rewarded with an Oscar for his efforts). Juliette Towhidi adapted Brittain’s book. It was Graham’s first feature screenplay. Towhidi has written several, including “Calendar Girls.”
6. Both have male directors. James Kent, the director of “Testament of Youth,” makes his feature debut. He has multiple TV series and TV movie credits. “The Imitation Game” was Morten Tyldum’s first English-language film. Both period pieces are also beautifully shot.
“Testament of Youth” debuted at the 2014 London Film Festival and opened in the UK in January of this year. Maybe that is why it was given a summer release instead of a fall slot. But I can’t help but wonder why this film has been so casually dismissed when it seems to have a lot of awards potential. Could it be because it is a woman’s story? The movie is epic, gorgeous and thematically rich — and yet no one, and I mean no one, here in the US is talking about this superlative film.
The film is rolling out wider this weekend and will continue throughout the summer. It’s not just a movie for women (remember when a movie has a female protagonist it does not make it a movie just for women) and those of you who will be sad to see “Game of Thrones” end this weekend, make a note that Jon Snow is in the film and he’s terrific.
It’s not often that I implore you to see a movie, but I am imploring you to see this film. It’s too good to miss.