Based on the memoir of Vera Brittian by the same name, Testament of Youth chronicles Vera’s (Alicia Vikander) attempts to attend Oxford just before the outbreak of the First World War. After both her brother and fiancee enlist, Vera drops out of school to join the war effort as a nurse.

There have been hundreds, if not thousands of films made about the First World War, and one cannot be blamed for wondering if we could possibly need one more. Testament of Youth proves that we not only need another film about WWI, but that there are so many voices that have yet to be heard. Films usually ignore the stories of women and those on the homefront in favour of the stories of soldiers. Testament of Youth takes steps to remedy this lack on both counts.

The first half of the film is spent with Vera on the homefront as the realities of the war slowly begin to dawn on those left behind. The fact that we know the future leaves a foreboding air that is at odds with the optimism of the characters onscreen. Everyone in the audience knows that none of them will make it out the other side unscathed, because no one who lived through WWI did, but the film still manages to offer the hope that this time it will be different.

The second half of the film focuses on Vera’s work as a nurse, both in England and on the front in France. The mangled bodies of soldiers have been a war film staple for decades, but Testament of Youth sees them through a slightly different lens, and that matters. The women of this film are more than peripheral, they are integral to the war effort. They show every bit as much bravery and desperation as the men and return just as broken.

Trying to juggle both Vera’s experience on the home front and as a nurse give Testament of Youth a bit of an overstuffed feeling at times, but for the most part this doesn’t diminish the power of seeing women included in a major historical event as active participants instead of being ignored altogether.