Thursday, July 16, 2015

Solo at the Movies: "Testament of Youth" at Royal Laemmle

Note: For a variety of reasons, I missed doing a post for this series in June. My plan is to double up this month.

Theater Info:
Royal Laemmle Theater
11523 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles
Cost: $8.00 for a matinee showing

Movie Stats:
Released 2014 (UK)
British, in English (some non-translated German)
Director - James Kent
Stars - Alicia Vikander, Taron Egerton, Kit Harington, Colin Morgan

Plot Summary:
Based on the book of the same name, Vera Brittain’s (Vikander) memoir of love and loss during WWI. Egerton co-stars as Vera’s brother, Edward; Harington as her love interest, Roland; and Morgan as their friend, Victor.

Extreme gore (all violence is off-screen; viewers just get to see the aftermath).

Bad Stuff:
This is not an opinion I share, but I could see where someone would find it slow and boring. (Personally, despite all the action, I found “Jurassic World” way more dull than this film.)

Good Stuff:
The cast is so phenomenal that it’s difficult to single out even just one or two of them. Vikander was amazing. I spent the whole movie thinking, “She looks familiar,” and was absolutely stunned when I looked her up and finally realized she’s the AI in “Ex Machina” (where she was also amazing). I was equally stunned after spending the whole movie trying to place Egerton to realize that it was Eggsy from “Kingsman.” Everything about him in this, including the way he carried himself and the way he spoke, was so completely different from his role in Kingsman that I honestly didn’t realize it was him. I also give serious props to Harington, who I always disliked as John Snow in “Game of Thrones.” I’d never seen him in anything other than GOT, so respect to him for winning me over here. Lastly, I’m giving a special shout out to Hayley Atwell (as nurse Hope), who is such a chameleon in every role that I didn’t recognize her even though I absolutely love her (she also made a surprise-to-me appearance in “Cinderella”).

The cinematography is stunning.

After the movie ended, one of the women next to me turned to her friend and said, “That was a really beautiful movie.” And it was, in every way imaginable. The people, the scenery, the costumes, the story, all of it is incredibly beautiful. In a way, that beauty is terrible, because it makes the film all that much more painful, but it’s still beautiful nonetheless.

The Verdict:
I knew very little about it going in. I wanted to check out the Royal Laemmle, so I looked up what was playing there. I was unfamiliar with all the films, but they all had good ratings, so I chose the one that sounded most interesting to me. I knew only that it starred Vikander (whose name I didn’t recognize) and Harington and that it was about WWI.

This is a film that will punch you repeatedly, ruthlessly, and unapologetically right in the feels. I’ve hardly ever left a movie feeling so gutted. Knowing that it was based on a true story made it even worse. Let me tell you, there was a lot of sniffling going on in that theater, and it wasn’t all coming from me. If that’s not your kind of thing, then you’ll probably want to avoid this one. If you do, however, you’ll be missing out on a really great film. It’s written by an avowed pacifist who experienced the horrors of war firsthand (as a nurse) and felt its terrible wrath over and over again. It’s not supposed to make you feel good. It’s supposed to make you hurt, and it’s supposed to make you think twice about what the point of war is. It does both of those things very capably. Vera’s story is one that hopefully very few of us will find familiar, but I think it’s one that anyone could imagine happening to them. If you can imagine it, then you’ll definitely want to avoid it. That was her message in life, and I think it’s great that this film continues to carry her message forward, long after she’s gone.

I give the movie 4.75 stars.

About Royal Laemmle Theater:
Another theater that looks dubious on the outside but is great on the inside. Not sure when it was renovated - seems recent - but everything looks brand new: clean, sleek, and modern. The theater I was in was small, but the seats were very comfortable. There’s no parking lot. I walked there this time (it’s just over 2 miles from my place), but I’m familiar with the neighborhood, so I can tell you that there’s free street parking south of SM Blvd, as long as you’re willing to walk a few blocks. The only weird thing about this place is that there appears to be some kind of labor dispute going on. I drove by a few months ago and saw the protestors out front, but then I sort of forgot about it. When I went to the theater today, there were no protestors. However, they were there by the time I left, so I guess the dispute is still ongoing. I have no idea what it’s all about. The protestors made no attempt to talk to me, and I didn’t read their signs. My patronage of the theater is in no way a show of support (or a declaration of lack of support) for either side of the dispute.


Patricia said...

This sounds like a fabulous movie. And one I will put off seeing for all the "hard" stuff. It's sometimes frustrating to me how many good movies there are. And how many movies that I suspect will be so-so but I must see them for various reasons (Channing Tatum, Marvel Superhero movie with Paul Rudd, etc.)

I just watched a really good movie last night that hit all the right places. It's called "Tonight Your're Mine" (Originally titled "You Instead"). I'm betting most people haven't heard of it, I only knew what it was because I saw a preview, was totally interested and then promptly forgot the title. But it was filmed over five days (FIVE DAYS!) at a music festival in Scotland and completely captures the festival environment (I assume, since I've never been to a music festival) and has an entertaining story. And Tonks from Harry Potter.

I'm contemplating trying to fit in the new Mark Ruffalo movie this weekend "Infinity Polar Bear" because of Mr. Ruffalo and also because it's written and directed by the sister of China Forbes (of Pink Martini). But we shall see if the Ant Man plans come together or not.

balyien said...

Ant-Man was pretty fun. I wasn't really intending to go see it right away but plans changed. It was better than I expected it to be. I do feel like I spend a lot of time watching likable but meaningless films, to the point where I start to get bored of them, but when I do watch something more meaningful, it really gets to me emotionally, like this film. I was honestly depressed the rest of the day because it was just so sad. I used to watch more movies like that when I was younger because I thought it made me deep. Now I feel like, "Life is hard enough as it is. Bring on the entertainment!" And then I get bored. It's a catch-22. I haven't even heard of Mark Ruffalo's new film (or the other one you mentioned).