Testament is a movie that I do not want to see again, but not because it was a bad film. It is so depressing, tragic, and sad that I don't think I could handle seeing it again, even with knowing the details of what would transpire if I saw the video of it once more. This being said, Testament is a movie that should be seen, as it is well acted and a powerful tale of survival, death, and loss.
Set in a small town outside San Francisco, the film begins with people going about their lives just like any other day. There is no hint of any impending nuclear attack, nor of any world events that might trigger a nuclear war. In the middle of the day, an emergency broadcast interrupts Sesame Street to announce that America is under attack. The broadcast lasts about thirty seconds before a nuclear blast nearby knocks out the television signal; that is the last we hear of the government or most of the outside world for the rest of the film.
The citizens initially handle the situation quite well, walking out onto the streets after the attack like they would after a bad thunderstorm to survey the damage. As time goes on, however, it seems apparent that the town is cut off and they are basically alone. Hunger and radiation poisoning set in, and many become sick and die from the radiation.
Jane Alexander puts on a great performance, and should have won every award in 1983 for her role as the mother trying to keep the family alive and together. The characters are ones you get to know and like, and you feel the pain when one of them passes away. Unlike The Day After, this film has little special effects and focuses on a small group of people, which makes it more powerful.
The mounting number of deaths from radiation is handled effectively and is quite scary; one very memorable shot near the end of the movie shows a playground having been converted to a cemetery, with a swing set moving slowly in the breeze with dozens of graves in the background. At the end, Jane Alexander and what is left of her family sit down for a makeshift party, and she tells them they must not forget the past before the Nuclear Holocaust but must move on and try to survive somehow. You will wonder if a year later if anyone of them will still be alive. It is also quite powerful to note that the home the family lives in is quite large and well furnished. By the end, there is no power, no running water, no TV, no air conditioning or heat, no cable, no telephone, and almost no food; it is a relic of what Americans once saved up for and strived to have, and now is little more than a roof and four walls, itself a testament to an era and civilization destroyed.
Testament is very hard to watch, but teaches an important lesson about the futility of nuclear war. While times and the world situation have changed much since 1983, this is a film that is still relevant and should be watched.
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