Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Review: "Testament" Still Testifies (Happy B'day, Lukas Haas)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 54 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

Testament (1983)
Running time: 89 minutes (1 hour, 29 minutes)
DIRECTOR:  Lynne Littman
WRITER:  John Sacret Young (based upon the short story, “The Last Testament” by Carol Amen)
PRODUCERS:  John Bernstein and Lynne Littman
EDITOR:  Suzanne Pettit
COMPOSER:  James Horner
Academy Award nominee

Starring:  Jane Alexander, William Devane, Rossie Harris, Roxana Zal, Lukas Haas, Philip Anglim, Lilia Skala, Leon Ames, Lurene Tuttle, Rebecca De Mornay, Kevin Costner, Mako, Mico Olmos, and Gerry Murillo


The subject of this movie review is Testament, a 1983 post-apocalyptic drama.  The film is based on the short story, “The Last Testament,” which first appeared in print in 1981 and was written by Carol Amen.  Testament the film focuses on a woman and her small suburban American family as they struggle to survive after a nuclear attack.

Talk about a time capsule movie, I hadn’t seen the anti-nuclear war/proliferation or anti-nukes film, Testament, in 21 years, and found it quite by accident on Internet rental service, Netflix.  Back in the early 80’s, Testament really fit in with a time when so many people thought the U.S. and the USSR were going to destroy the world in an inevitable nuclear world war, each side seemingly primed for mutually assured destruction.  Still, the film’s drama remains potent because its story of a community devastated by a man-made horror is timeless.

Testament is the story of Carol Wetherly (Jane Alexander), who becomes the family matriarch and leader when nuclear bombs are detonated across the country, and her husband, Tom (William Devane), doesn’t make it home to their suburb of Hamlin from his job in San Francisco.  As neighbors and members of her family begin to die from the fallout, Carol takes in orphans and tries to keep what’s left of her family together.  When it seems that everyone’s fate is sealed by radiation poison and it seems that they’re cut off from the rest of the world (or what still exists of civilization), she tries to teach her children adult matters that they will never live to learn.

Testament was originally a made-for-TV movie that impressed executives at Paramount Pictures enough to get it released theatrically.  The fact that it played in theatres made Jane Alexander eligible for post-season film awards, and she earned 1984 Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for best actress.  She dominates this film, and the tragic post-war existence of the survivors is etched in her performance.

There are some moments in this film that will stay with me forever, such as Carol washing her youngest child, Scottie (Lukas Haas), who has profuse bleeding in his stool – totally heart wrenching.  Even at an hour and a half running time, the film seems a bit long, as if it makes its point halfway through the film and everything else is just morbid piling on.  Still, the film gets across two points – humans will struggle to survive, even under the most adverse conditions.  Secondly, we humans will hurt ourselves more than anything else on the planet could.  Although I think that leaders who make the decision to go to war don’t give a damn about such movies, Testament is good enough for those of us who do.

7 of 10

Friday, April 8, 2005

Updated:  Wednesday, April 16, 2014

1984 Academy Awards, USA:  1 nomination: “Best Actress in a Leading Role” (Jane Alexander)

1984 Golden Globes, USA:  1 nomination: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama” (Jane Alexander)

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