The Testament of Youth is a nonfiction book written by Vera Brittain, as a sort of memoir about her experience during the First World War. Today it was showing on HBO, and I was able to watch it from start to finish. My dad and I had just finished watching The Girl With All The Gifts, (don’t ask how lol), and my brain was somewhat tired from both the meds that make me drowsy and the heavy film we just saw. But when I saw Alicia Vikander, I was hooked. Be warned, there are some spoilers.
I’ve never read the book, but I knew about the film and meant to watch it. Like most war stories and films, it was very sad, but I appreciated the different perspective it offered. It’s easy enough to see why this story is a classic.
To briefly, and hopefully nicely, summarize the film: it is, at the very least, a coming of age story, but maybe in the worst way possible. The way being losing your closest friends one by one in a war which took hundreds of thousands of people from this world. (I tried expanding it, but it wasn’t working. Let’s try this instead.) The protagonist, the author Vera Brittain, does a marvelous job at being independent, being herself, being a sister, being a friend, being a fiancee, being a nurse, and being a daughter. I could enumerate the various elements and parts this story has to offer, but I’m sure I would fall short. Rest assured that I loved it to bits and pieces, and that was before I found out it was a true story. Now I just worship it.
Now I’m not sure how old Vera was in the entirety of the story, but I’m assuming she was in her twenties. Imagine, having to go through your twenties in absolute worry, and then loss, of your most cherished friends. I can barely go out and look for a job. But then we do belong in different worlds. Or are we?
Today, war still exists, persists, and seems to have no end in sight. Hundreds of thousands of people still risk their lives, still lose their loved ones, and still suffer from incredible cruelty and apathy. It seems that a hundred years, and more, of this has not taught us anything.
Now, I can be petty and say, “All of this destruction and violence happened/happens at the hand of men. Ever have a woman in charge and do this?” But I’m certain gender preference, sexual orientation, ethnic background, and racial profile has very little to do with it, even if people argue that it does. It may be rooted to it in some extent, but I am not a feminist because I hate men. I’m a feminist because I believe that everyone should be granted an equal opportunity. I’m not a proud Filipino because I hate every other country or people. I’m a proud Filipino because we have the capacity of great resilience. We are united by culture and custom which embody compassion, generosity, and humility. We have overcome countless challenges that have almost torn apart the nation, which today is still rampant, but still we endure.
I may be a sort of optimist for saying such things, but this is me maintaining my youthful idealism. Lots of people lose it as they grow older and see more of the world. I do think I’ve seen a fair bit of everything, though definitely not all. Please note I said “maintaining”, because there are hard days where it’s hard to see the good in anything, more so when it’s the actual depression talking. But I persevere.
The pain and loss that Vera felt is unimaginable to me, and I hope never to have to feel it. I am privileged, however, to know that even through that pain, she was able to pick herself up and live her life to the fullest.
Hard days are always afoot. But good will come. If it doesn’t, look for it. Create it. You are capable.