This is a true story based on pacifist Vera Brittain’s best-selling memoir. Vera (Alicia Vikander — Ava in Ex-Machina) wants to go to Oxford and become a writer, but her parents (Dominic West and Emily Watson) are opposed. They want her to get married and live the traditional woman’s role. She is very close to her brother Edward (Taron Egerton), who is 18 and will soon be a Freshman at Oxford. Vera asserts herself with her well-off father, who agrees to send her to Oxford, too, if she gets accepted.
During the summer, Vera spends time with her brother’s two close friends who will also start at Oxford, Victor (Colin Morgan) and Roland (Kit Harrington — Jon Snow in Game of Thrones). Although she has no interest in getting married, sparks fly between Vera and Roland, who is moved by her poetry and supports her choice to get an education.
Just before the semester starts, WWI breaks out, and the three young men, responding to the call of duty, enlist in the British Army. Vera gets accepted and starts out at Oxford, but feels obligated to help with the war effort, so she takes a leave of absence. She then starts working as a nurse, attending to the wounded soldiers.
The movie chronicles the fate of the three young men as well as Vera’s harrowing war experiences that lead to her to become a passionate pacifist.
The film is about 20 minutes too long, since there were too many nursing scenes exposing the gruesomeness and brutality of war. (WWI had 17 million deaths and 20 million wounded making it one of the world’s deadliest conflicts.) Most of the movie, however, is entertaining and emotionally powerful. (CRYING ALERT!) Vikander gives a AAW performance, and the cinematography (Rosie Alison) is superb. The movie delivers its anti-war message well, and considering the multiple wars in the world today, it’s a timely and important one.