This film adaptation of Vera Brittain's 1933 memoir about being a World War I nurse is at least partly inspired by the current appetite for British period dramas such as Downton Abbey. Reared in a life of privilege, Brittain (Ex Machina's Alicia Vikander) leaves Oxford to join the Voluntary Aid Detachment and care for the war-wounded in England and France. Her Florence Nightingale turn permits her to follow the fate of a quartet of friends and family dispatched to the front, including fiancé Roland (Kit Harington) and brother Edward (Taron Egerton). Director James Kent's stark depiction of trench warfare's awful aftermath stands in sharp contrast to the airbrushed rendering of the Great War's disruption of the British home front. Vikander, playing a part Keira Knightley would have gotten five years ago, effectively channels Brittain's emotional upheaval and earnest resolve. English screen regulars Emily Watson, Miranda Richardson and Dominic West show up mainly because Maggie Smith and Michael Gambon are aging out. Ultimately, Kent's feature directorial debut is handsome, though hardly memorable, résumé filler for the young cast.
Director: James Kent
Writer: Vera Brittain and Juliette Towhidi
Cast: Hayley Atwell, Dominic West, Kit Harington, Alicia Vikander, Colin Morgan, Miranda Richardson, Emily Watson, Taron Egerton, Anna Chancellor and Jonathan Bailey
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