Aaaargh what a load of garbage! A film about stupid posh people who go off to war excited about potentially killing themselves and who then try to moan about it poignantly, completely ignoring their own idiocy and the fact that it was their very ilk who were not only responsible for starting the blooming war in the first place, but for then buying their way into the ranks of the officer elite and, once again through their stupidity, sending many thousands of men who didn’t have a choice about being there to their pointless and horrible deaths, all told through the eyes of the most pathetic useless waify twat that you can imagine. The waify twat in question is Vera Brittain, whose autobiographical novel this is based on, and World War I is the society event of the day. Vera is a woman, and is therefore much put upon and oppressed – as we can tell in the very beginning when daddy, and this did bring a tear to my eye, buys her a piano when she didn’t want one and she flips out, proving she’s an ungrateful spoilt little pisser right from the word go.
This upset at the piano is all to do with money going on something that everyone can use rather than sending her to Oxford to study, but she is apparently used to getting her own way so daddy eventually pays up anyway. Whilst we are waiting for the terribly exciting decision from the uni (even though she forgot to check what was required for the entrance exam and cocked it up and yet her entry is a forgone conclusion anyway) we are to believe that she is somehow a talented and spirited exception that is fighting the good fight for women’s lib, which is a massive bastardisation of the social issues of the day – women attended university in Britain long before 1914 (officially British universities have been open to women since 1876) and I imagine if you were male or female and, say, from the sticks around Birmingham you may have had much more difficulty getting into Oxford then than a young lass from gentrified money. So she’s really clever and talented right? So clever, in fact, she convinces her father to send her brother off to the war as ‘it will be good for him’, ahaha ha ha. Really? You’ve somehow got into Oxford and yet the poorest uneducated homeless orphan on the street can easily tell you that going off to any war is unlikely to be ‘good for you’.
At some point in the near future she realise this may have been a mistake and so she tries to get out of her studies to ‘do her bit’ as a nurse – to which her superior quite rightly points out that this is treating her place at the university with quite considerable disdain and she shouldn’t squander the privilege to go and do something she’s not trained at and will make no real difference in so doing either. She does it anyway and we see many, many shots of other nurses running around trying to save people whilst she looks hopelessly around aghast at the horrors she is surrounded by. Over the years, though, she remains unremittingly aghast, perpetually doing the better part of nothing – even Scarlett O’Hara did a better job of getting her hands dirty when she had to. The drama is unveiled in a horrendously melodramatic way that is so painfully bad I simply refuse to believe any of it is based on anything other than the most rudimentary of facts.
As for the acting, it is universally terrible – in particular from Alicia Vikander, who plays Brittain, and Kit Harington who plays her love interest and who initially has a job at the back somewhere but then volunteers for the front. Bright lad, you can see why the pair fell for each other. Directed by James Kent, it is also perforated by long almost completely silent shots and if you are going to make a film in this manner then you absolutely have to know what you are doing, otherwise not only does it seem utterly pretentious but you simply create many awkward moments for all but a solo audience. This really couldn’t paint a more negative portrayal of Brittain, which is sad as this is also the first big-screen adaptation of her most famous literary work, first published in 1933 and eventually forming part of an ongoing memoir that she was still writing for when she passed away in 1970.