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  • I first saw "Testament" when it came out in 1983. At the time, I was 30 years old and the mother of a two year-old son. As a child of the Cold War years, I have always been interested in films about that most unthinkable event: the detonation of a nuclear bomb or bombs somewhere on our fragile planet. If you are, too, you must watch "Testament" (and another small gem of a slightly earlier era called "Fail-Safe.")

    This is a wonderful film that slowly, unbearably reveals what happens in the small, idyllic town of Hamlin after a full-scale nuclear exchange between the superpowers wipes out a large part of America. The town and its citizens, including the Weatherly family, escape initial destruction. But slowly the bonds that hold western societies together (electricity, communication, fresh food, medical help) begin to fray and ravel. There is no television. Batteries to power transistor radios suddenly become more valuable than $20 bills in a town where, suddenly, there's nothing left to buy.

    The story and scenes are permeated with a sense of enormous loss. A family loses its husband and father who simply walked out the door, waving a breezy goodbye one morning, and disappeared into the holocaust. All his wife, Carol, and two children have left of him are their memories and some flickering images on home movies, glimpses not just of a lost loved one, but of a lost -- and loved -- world.

    A school play about the Pied Piper was in rehearsal before catastrophe hit, and, desperate to recapture some normalcy and to divert the children's attention from a reality to horrible to contemplate, the town decides to go on with the show.In the earlier rehearsal scenes, life was normal, the future shone brightly in the children's faces. Now, as the parents watch the performance, they see no future for these beautiful innocents. To me, this is the key scene of the film: the contrast between what these people once had and what has been lost is staggering. It makes you want to go outside, smell the air, marvel at the full supermarket shelves and the working telephone lines. (This is a gift that the movie gives its audience which goes far beyond entertainment and approaches enlightenment.)

    Beyond the wonderful writing, direction and performances, I love the tiny touches in the story. For example, there's the foreshadowing, the implicit warning contained in the presence of a minor character, a little Japanese boy with Down Syndrome who is cared for by the town after his father dies. The child's name is Hiroshi. Pay attention, the script commands us in a whisper: Hiroshima happened once, but it can happen again, and it can happen to you as well as "them."

    In the end, the movie is a testament to this undeniable fact, a testament to the stupidity of men who continue building ever-larger, more lethal means of mass destruction, and finally, a testament to the strength of mothers like the character of Carol Weatherly who have no choice but to love and protect their children no matter what comes.
  • WriterDave5 October 2003
    This small film from 1983 might actually be more emotionally devastating than "Schindler's List" because it presents us with a horrific "what-if" scenario that I imagine scared the be-jesus out of viewers in the Cold War era that it was made and will send shivers down the spine of anyone who watches it today. The threat of nuclear holocaust may not be so looming now, but the threat of bio-terrorism or any other level of terrorist attack or all out war is very real in the post 9/11 era. This film is so stark and intimate that it really doesn't matter what these people are dying from (it could just as easily be biological warfare as it is nuclear fallout). I was so deeply effected by this film's portrayal or one family in one small California town getting cut off from the rest of civilization (which we can only assume is in the midst of WWIII) and slowly falling apart while one by one loved ones succumb to nuclear radiation that I couldn't watch it all. I had to flip the channels to watch a few minutes of "The Simpsons" before I turned back to watch the end. This is possibly the most depressing film ever made. Jane Alexander running frantically around the house searching for her youngest son's favorite stuffed animal and refusing to bury his body (wrapped in bedsheets) in the backyard until she found it is so heartbreaking that it made me sick. As such, this is the film that every politician the world over should watch before declaring any kind of war. War is not about winning or losing or politics or doing what it right, war is about the death of our children. Everyone needs to be reminded of that before making the war cry. In the end we all die.
  • It's been TWENTY YEARS (!) since I've seen this movie in a theatre, and I've never yet forgotten it. If any movie can be said to be life-changing, this is it. TESTAMENT was first shown in theatres, and the film's power became front page headlines for quite some time. People were crying in theatres, and article after article told of how this extremely powerful film affected people. This was not hype; the emotional strength of this movie is genuinely powerful.

    For myself, I held back as best I could from crying in the theatre (me being a 23 year old guy seeing it with two (married) friends). But the effect on me was apparently visible immediately: when I walked out of the theatre and passed thru the line of people waiting for the next showing, a woman, who was laughing with her friends, happened to look at me and her face went completely serious. I very nearly hugged her right there, this stranger. When I got home, I cried for about two hours. The film's themes affected my, at the time, concerns about love, relationships, and such like.

    One scene I'll never EVER forget, the most devastating: the 13-ish year old daughter asks her mother, "What's it like?" MOTHER: "What's what like?" DAUGHTER: "Making love." The mother (Jane Alexander -- my God, what a performance!) tells her in a very frank and beautiful speech, and the daughter caps off that scene with a devastating remark that just kills you and got my tears flowing (I probably couldn't hold back at that point).

    Before making TESTAMENT, director Lynne Littman had made only documentaries, so maybe that "realism" style added to the power and believability of this movie. One of my all time favorite supporting actors is in this film, and he does a fantastic job: Mako. He and the young retarded (Down Syndrome?) boy who plays his son make a phenomenal team. They're my favorite characters: so full of innocence, father so full of love, strength and pain. Agh... my god my god... what a movie. Whew.
  • I never thought a film about nuclear war could be more moving than "The Day After" or "Threads". Now that I've viewed "Testament", I know I was wrong.

    Frankly, I thought the film would seem mild in comparison with the former two, which are very graphic and horrific. In fact, it was even more disturbing and difficult to watch. Several times I considered shutting the film off, thinking "What good is it doing me to watch this depressing movie?" But each time I convinced myself to stick it out, and I'm glad I did.

    I don't know what it was; the strength of Jane Alexander's performance, the combined performances by the younger actors playing her children, the excellent and artistic (yet remarkably matter-of-fact) cinematography, the haunting beauty of James Horner's score, or all of the above, but "Testament" just got into me and tore my very soul apart. There's no graphic "ground zero" scenes like in the other two films, just the story of a family struggling to survive, trying to stay hopeful beyond all hope.

    The scene that I think will stick with me forever is the shot of Jane Alexander tearing apart bedsheets. That's all I'll say about this scene for now since I don't want to give anything away, but watch the film and you'll know what I'm talking about.

    As other reviews have alluded to, "The Day After" and "Testament" both came out around the same time, yet "Testament" is far less known and remembered among the two films, even though most consider it the better of the two. I think the reason for this is that "The Day After" was presented on television, while "Testament", though originally made for public television, was instead released to theaters. With a movie like this, I think it's easier to just watch it on TV than to bring yourself to actually go out to a theater to experience this type of film.

    "Testament" is one of those films like "The Hours". It's beautiful, breathtaking, unforgettable... and so heartrending I'm not sure I can ever bring myself to watch it again. But if you haven't seen it, you should. Trust me, it will be worth it.
  • There was "The Day After," a U.S. production about as subtle as someone hitting you over the head with a bat going "Nuclear war is BAD! BAD BAD BAD!"

    Then there was "Threads," the BBC answer to Day After. Gripping, yes. Also unrelentingly graphic, violent and disturbing with little in terms of acting.

    Then you have "Testament," a quiet little American Playhouse production that, quite simply, runs circles around the other two. No mushroom clouds, no graphic scenes of mass destruction and death incarnate. Just simple, raw human emotion. "Testament" handles its subject manner with a surprising gentle touch, understated, yet effective. The film is the best of the three because of its subtlety. A small Californian town isn't hit by the blast, but rather the aftermath.

    It works. At first, the town manages to hold together fairly well, even proceeding with the elementary school play. But then the children begin dying, then the grownups. And the film rapidly becomes a story about surviving as best you can, rather than rebuilding and going on. I won't spoil the film by revealing plot details, but there are several twists that are both subtle and heartbreaking.

    This film relies on its emotions to tell the story, and the actors are up to the task. Jane Alexander is, in a word, brilliant (how she didn't win the Oscar she got nominated for is beyond me), but she's not the only one. Her children, particularly Lukas Haas and Roxanna Zal (in their movie debuts), are stunning as well, while some of the bit players make the most of what they have.

    In the end, it's the gradual NON-appearance of the actors that make the point. Life will go on, yes, but for how long? "Testament" relies on the loss of those we learn to love to make its point in the best way possible: by letting us get it on our own.
  • 1983..The cold war was in full swing and the fear of nuclear armageddon hung over all our heads. ABC released "The Day After", (which I have already commented on) but in all the furor around that, "Testament" was released. This is THE 1980's nuclear war film. It doesn't deal with the effects on an entire community, but rather on one small, close knit family in California. Jane Alexander's performance was one of legend, and is possibly one of the classic dramatic performances of all time. The day begins innocently enough, dad heads off to work, the kids watch "Sesame Street"..then the Emergency Broadcast System cuts in and the world stops. Ignore all the Y2K mumbo-jumbo and put yourself back in 1983 (most of us know where we were) and watch this film. You may not be "entertained", but you will appreciate what you have just a bit more.
  • Forget Freddie and Jason, if you want a real horror film then I recommend this because I think it will keep most normal people awake long into the night. This film doesn't rely on gore or violence to get its message across; instead it takes the very familiar scene of a loving young family living in a close-knit town and dumps them into the harsh, harrowing realities of nuclear war where there is no mercy for either the good or the innocent.

    'Testament' is a tale of what would happen if a nuclear strike devastated America and how average people, who have no military training or the like, would cope. There is no computer virus to fix things nor is there some hunky, muscular hero to save the day; people are left to fend for themselves in a world forever changed, in conditions that are unforgiving and demoralising. The film revolves mainly around the Wetherly family, made up by parents- Carol and Tom - and their three children, fourteen-year-old Mary Liz, twelve-year-old Brad and six-year-old Scottie and it packs no punches for the fate of this little group.

    For a film that couldn't have had a massive budget, not only is the script of good quality but so was the acting. Jane Alexander was excellent as a Carol, a mother striving to see her family through this disaster, watching as the town around her dwindles as people die of radiation poisoning or flee for safer pastors. But Ross Harris definitely deserves recognition for his part as young Brad. Through him, we are able to see how a child would deal with such an event and how the innocence of childhood is brought to a sharp end as Brad is forced to take the role of an adult for the sake of his family.

    After seeing 'Testament', I don't think I'll ever really stop pondering the issues it raised and how it is vitally important that the governments of all countries do anything and everything to ensure we never have to deal with such an event in real life. It is very thought-provoking and terrifying in a way no horror flick can be. And if you want to add to your trauma, I recommend checking out 'Threads' (the same situation only set in England and so chilling that it makes this film out to be a bag of laughs) and 'The Day After'.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Pretty much all of the positive reviews listed here echo my opinion of this film (subtle, powerful, honest, depressing), so I won't beat the dead horse and describe how terrific of a film this is.

    I just wanted to add that James Horner's score, one of his first, is downright brilliant and deserves an official release on CD. Listen to it and treat it as the foundation for most of his future "dramatic" scores, such as "Titanic" and "Apollo 13."

    James Horner is one of the few composers that can make me cry with his music alone, and I believe it is because I am reminded of this film when I hear it.


    The scene in which the young japanese boy (a remarkable performance, considering he is mentally handicapped in real life and surprisingly never mentioned in any of these reviews) finds the missing toy bear caused possibly the most emotional response from me that I have ever experienced while watching a movie.

    Testament, as of this date, is most definately the saddest film I have ever seen. I have never been more emotionally drained. It's ending ranks up there with the original "Resurrection" as one of the most haunting endings I have ever seen.
  • All of the comments i have read about this film focus on it's bleakness, on it's difficultly - due to subject matter, and many of them also quite rightly applaud the performance of Jane Alexander in the Central role. What none of them mention, and what seems so clear to me, is that this is a film that could only have been made by women.

    There is no BIG EVENT here. No mass hysteria, violence, rape, disfigurement or any of those other factors that are paraded as horrifying in the majority of Nuclear War films - I am thinking specifically of Threads and The Day After Here.

    In Testament we actually see humanity. We see how one family, one community copes with the devastation of just that - their family and their community.

    This is what is so tragic, compelling and ultimately horrifying about this film. It is not a panache, it is not a broad canvas. It is about people not about issues and as such the humanity shines through.

    I am not saying the other films aren't powerful in their way. They are - and both Threads and The Day After gave me nightmares. But Testament was so far beyond them in terms of simple courage and purpose. There was no grandiose, no glamour or tacked on love story. This was not hollywood, was life or the end of it, and all the more frightening for it.

    Testament is one of the main reasons why we should see more women making politic films - and perhaps running a few more countries.
  • This is one of those films that is very draining to watch, but worth it. It is a slightly more tame approach to the subject matter, but excellently done.

    It is often compared with "Threads", which many people think is too graphic. Regardless, I like both films. I have to say that "Testament" will look more realistic to rural people, who may just die slowly as the characters in this film do, rather than be subjected to the immediate effects of the attack.

    Rebecca De Mornay's appearance in this film, which I only saw after seeing "By Dawn's Early Light", makes a connection between these two films. Everyone should see both films at least once, as well. Excellent performances from Rossie Harris and Mako make this film stand out even further.

    Having seen "The Day After" now, I prefer "Testament" but find both films excellent.
  • Testament (1983) was one of the few films that came out during the 80's that dealt with the Nuclear War scenario seriously. Jane Alexander stars as the matriarch of your typical middle class family. One day when the father (Bill Devane) is on a business trip, life as we know it was ended when the missiles were launched. Who or what caused this holocaust was never explained. But the only that thing that matters now is survival and trying to keep the family together. What tragic world lies ahead for the family now that life as they knew it was changed forever?

    A real heartbreaking film that shows the side of the human condition that we all have deep within us. There's no big budgeted effects or over the top acting in this film. Just raw emotion, great acting and a real good script and direction that fuels this drama. I strongly recommend this movie for all the reasons I have stated.
  • Lele22 February 2015
    Warning: Spoilers
    I have a daughter the same age of Mari Liz (Roxana Zal) and I can't even imagine what I'd do if something bad were to happen to her. The scene where the young girl asks the mother what is making love is one of saddest scene I ever saw.

    I was 25 when the movie was released and I perfectly knew that my town, like hundred of other Western towns were possible targets. I was born when Cold War was very cold and the fear for WW II was still in the air. And actual bombs were still in our ground.

    But IMHO in this movie nuclear war is a metaphor. Almost nothing related to the bombing is really seen on the screen, but a blinding light for some seconds. No sound, nothing. This movie is far away from "The Day After": this film is hopeless.

    There is no after! People die, even if they do it in a gentle way. The subject of the movie is what does people leave after dying. What people lose dying.

    Anyway I think I had killed myself much earlier, after the death of the little kid: I would not be able to resist as did the protagonist of the film
  • I saw this film 20 years ago and it is still indelibly etched in my brain. But the reasons it still resonates for me today is that this is not just a film about "nuclear winter." This film creates for all of us comfortable middle class Americans a credible, empathetic scenario for what all of those in other countries must be going through as their lives and families are devastated by man's inhumanity to man. Is the pain that this White upper middle class mother feels any more tragic than the cries of a mother in Sudan or Iraq or anywhere where families are the victims? This film made their pain very real for me in my two-level apartment as I munch on snacks that after a full dinner with my computer and stereo blaring.

    This is a film about despair and hopelessness. It is relentless and futile. The moment when Jane Alexander accidentally jars the answering machine while looking for batteries still causes stabbing pains in my heart. Unfortunately, it is a timeless story filled with universal emotions. Is there a value to being made to empathize with those whose children slowly die in their arms (whether from nuclear winter or hunger?). I feel that this movie changed me 20 years ago and I have since tried to do whatever I can in my modest ways.
  • If you want to know what the aftermath of nuclear war would truly be like, watch this movie. There are no scenes of wild chaos, no clinical views of ground zero, just the blinding flash seen from the living room of a fairly typical family and the quiet slow death that comes afterward. The result is a movie far more horrifying than any I have seen dealing with this subject. Very intense, emotionally overwhelming, highly recommended. (I voted it a score of 10.)
  • MeYesMe27 November 1998
    There's nothing technically wrong with Testament. It's a story of nuclear fallout, the result of which is terror, loneliness, fear, and death. The acting was impressive – I usually have to give children a little leeway, as I often catch them mouthing the lines of the person speaking or committing any number of acting crimes, which can only be blamed on immaturity. But the acting here was not a problem; it was first-rate all the way around. And the story seemed real. With the threat of Y2K looming near, this didn't seem like a fairy tale.

    So what IS the problem with Testament? Relentlessness. I was physically exhausted and emotionally drained by the time the credits were finally rolling. Pretty impressive for a movie only 89 minutes long! It is a powerful, horrible film. I am still haunted by the dull-eyed image of Jane Alexander going through the motions of yet another death in the house – too spent to break down. It's a good movie but depressing as hell. See it, just don't expect to be entertained.
  • I read many other comments comparing this film with The Day After and Threads, saying this film is more powerful or less than those others. If you make that comparison you are wrong. Why? Because Testament has a very different point of view about the disaster. This film is not a ground zero flick, it is not focused on blasts or Cold War exchange. Some people say it is more realistic. I don't think so. Some people say the others are more realistic. I don't think so either.

    This film is actually symbolic. It was not made according to science knowledge. Otherwise everything would have been devastated, no trees, no sunlight, no water, no nothing. This film is focused on the family and their feelings, not in the nuclear disaster itself. In fact, if you watch it with a science point of view you will be disappointed because what it happens looks more like an epidemic, not like a nuclear winter.

    Testament is intended to capture your feelings, not to show you shock waves or gore. It's drama, not sci-fi or documentary.
  • Hard to believe this movie is over 20 years old!! To me, it's really timeless, and a must see. The biggest "perk" of all, is that I live in "Hamlin", actually Sierra Madre, CA, the city this was filmed in, and it has barely changed in the 20 years since the movie was filmed (Sierra Madre hasn't changed much in the 35 years my family has lived there) The overwhelming "reality" of it all is what really hits home, because it's not a science fiction version of what a nuclear attack would be like, it's the way it would effect real people, living real lives, going about their real existence. Lives interrupted in a way that's so frightening - subtly, slowly, yet devastating from the beginning. If it's the harshness of the towns people fighting over food and batteries and gasoline to the gentleness of the mother not really knowing how to answer the simple questions of her five year old - why does the milk taste funny? When is our refrigerator getting fixed? When is Dad coming home? Every moment of this film just grips your heart! I cry every time I see it! A small bit of trivia - Sierra Madre was also the location of the original "Invasion of the Body Snatchers". Notice the scene is "Testament" where the battery-trading station is - that is Kersting Court, which is the same place the trucks pulled up with the "pods" in "Body Snatchers"
  • hellraiser724 June 2012
    Warning: Spoilers
    There are times when we ask ourselves in our subconscious what if this or that happened, what would we do, how would we react, how would we survive; even though it may not have happen now who's to say it won't tomorrow. This film is one of those rare films that actually broke my heart and made me cry, and it still does whenever I watch it again, it's also a film you never forget.

    The film is tragedy about the aftermath and what we would do and behave knowing that the world we used to live in, is gone. there are many things that I appreciate about this film, for one thing there are never any special effects. We see no big explosion or any other graphic details; instead it has a power of suggestion which actually works. We actually witness in documentary style what the end of the world could actually look like. From seeing long lines which take hours to wait to get groceries or even a tank of gas, the need for batteries which is one of the last sources of power, garbage is littered everywhere. But the two images that I found the most chilling were the breakdown in the Eco System, from seeing the leaves and vegetation turn brown and red, as well as the sky becoming darker from the dust the bombs spread and has blocked some of the sun and contaminating the air. The second image was seeing gravestones and crosses everywhere from back or front yards one neighborhood homes you would pass by. Down to the park and playground, just seeing several gravestones behind a playground and an empty swing now swinging emptily just made my heart bleed knowing kids use to play there.

    But what makes the film work the most is the characters themselves whom all feel like real people, both major and minor we actually get to know these people as if their people that could live in our neighborhood or pass by on the street. Were completely involved with these people and the significant moments that occur which can be touching and heartbreaking. From Carol (Jane Alexander) talking to her daughter Mary about love and sexuality which Mary will never experience, seeing Scottie (Lucas Haas) burying his action figures and thinking of running away, Carol watching a family film and listening to her husband's voice on an answering machine as if she's waiting for him to come back home. It even comes down to the minor characters and what happens around town, community leader (Leon Ames) through his radio communication activities we get a sense of what happened to the world, Phil (Kevin Costner) seeing him walk the sidewalk with a chest drawer to be used as a coffin for his baby, down to seeing the elementary school play "The Pied Piper which is a little ironic to the current situation since that play takes place in the years of "The Black Plague" an overwhelming catastrophe that cost hundreds of lives.

    However what makes the film all the more heartbreaking is there's a sense of familiarity to the film. The character Brad the oldest son I identify with because he is very much like myself when I was his age, the town reminds me of the towns I lived in. Even seeing the final family film footage reminds me of some of the multiple family film tapes that were made with my family. In the end of the film as the final characters pass away it made me break down and cry for a long while, just the knowledge knowing there was once a happy family with some happy memories are never going to be able to make any more. All these familiar things are things I don't think about too much but after seeing this film it made me think about how valuable all those little things really are to me.

    The lessons in this film are showing that no one wins in a nuclear war and the terrible results it produces. But mainly just how valuable life truly is and how little time we truly have to live it. These are lessons that should apply not just to our current era but the future in general.

    The family and other souls in this movie may pass away but will live in our hearts forever.

    Rating: 4 stars
  • You cry at the end of these kinds of movies. I did. You think about the future, and how it will affect you. Jane Alexander rushes around, not letting her youngest son be put into the ground without his toy. You see him wrapped in his favorite bed sheets. Cars are on the sheets. You can't help but cry. TESTAMENT carries the ability to wonder into your thoughts, your emotions, and it tells you, it shows you, what life is like, what the term, "Drama" means. When I turned off the T.V. after the movie was done, I couldn't help but look straight at the black screen and say, "I'm never watching this movie again". It affected me so much, that I never watched another movie for days. I got up stared outside the window, looking at the snow, with my head against the window, breathing. To this day, I dream of what might happen to us, if TESTTAMENT fulfills it's meaning. I never saw the movie again since that one Sunday morning, nor I ever will again.
  • steinbeck119 September 2004
    I am a housewife.

    The term housewife has become politically incorrect but at the time this movie was made there was no such thing as "Politically Correct".

    I understand this movie from a perspective of a woman whose entire life is centered around her home--her family, neighbors and friends.

    This is what is so touching about this movie: it is centered around a woman who is truly in love with her husband, her children, her home, her community, her role in that community of friends and neighbors. This movie is so devastatingly accurate and honestly touching because it shows these integral parts of a stay-at-home-mom's life. She has normal routines that are all like the ebb and flow of the ocean. They change with the seasons but they are there and they are firm and flow freely. Slowly each and everything single thing that means anything is ripped away from this woman. Her husband, sex life, the joking and fun, even the normal arguments are gone, her sense of security that comes from her husband's presence is stripped away. Her precious children one by one are eaten alive by a force she can not fight. Her routines are gone, her friends have left, her community is desolate--it has become a graveyard. Some very poignant scenes involve the nursing mother (portrayed by Rebecca De Mornay) that is robbed of even her ability to nurse her baby. Scottie's tree that was planted when he was born is dying too. Every single thing that makes this woman love life and love her family is totally and utterly destroyed. This film touches your soul if you have ever loved what the main character loves.

    Even the endeavor the community goes through to attempt to maintain normalcy by continuing the children's school play is grief-filled. Any parent viewing this film will identify with the main character in her struggle to survive day by day. The depth of love and despair that is portrayed through out this film is beautiful.

    Every person that is ever in a position of power to help decide the fate of this country should be made to watch this film.

    Testament is a warning and a very real possibility in our current day.

    This film should be required viewing for all high school seniors to graduate. We need a generation of teens to be exposed to this film so that they can see how their vote and decisions in life could affect the entire world. This film evokes the same feelings of desperation that you experience when viewing Schindler's List and The Pianist. The real terrors of war are put on American soil in a small hamlet outside of San Francisco with likable characters and a plausible story line.

    It always reminds me of how precious life and our society are and how very vulnerable we all are to having it all taken away. My prayer is that this film will not be a prophetic representation of our future.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Possible spoilers!

    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.
  • This movie is virtually unknown in Europe and I can see why. The problem is in incredible naivety about how the nuclear war could look like. Behavior of main characters is not only stupid, it is actually suicidal - as for example in the German movie The Cloud (2006).

    I'm stunned into disbelief how many Americans do consider this movie to be "realistic" or "better than The Day After or Threads". Actually it is absolutely unreal emotional soap opera written by someone who was not only lazy to get basic information about nuclear warfare, but even didn't bother to get some information from survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    I have expected that Americans as expected participants in the nuclear exchange have been trained in basic survival skills. OK, so there is light from the blast, let's crouch behind the couch! And let's go outside for walks and forming orderly line for bottled water. People dying by radiation poisoning look like they have an influenza. Wow. So let's sit, use our last batteries for playing sad music and be sad in general. What's that? Sort of romantic family movie about dying?

    Because the nuclear exchange / terrorism still cannot be ruled out, let's sum up what to do in case of nuclear attack that kinda missed your residence. (If you have been hit directly without warning, you will probably evaporate, will be killed by pressure wave, will burn in the fires or suffocate. So any attempt to survive is basically based on assumption you will need to face only secondary effects.)

    First you need to try to grab as much water from the water duct as immediately possible because this is likely the very last clean source of water. Then you need to hide in the cellar with protection of at last half of the meter of soil or you need to put as much mass of anything between outside and yourselves. You need to stay at least 14 days inside and that means you cannot even bring out the dead or take a leak. The clean water should be used for drinking only, water outside cannot be used, especially rain water. After 14 days you can spent about 1 hour outside for burials, taking waste outside and searching for food. Keep outside activity for bare minimum and avoid physically intensive tasks at that point. If you do not have gas mask, then use the wet cloth as the minimum breathing protection. The cloths used for going outside must be kept isolated near the exit if you cannot wash it.

    This kinda might help to survive. Never ever go immediately outside even for church or children's play, otherwise you will see the real effects of radiation poisoning that is way way way worse than shown in this soap opera. If you plan to behave as people in this "realistic" movie, please save yourselves from the suffering and use your gun to shorten your suffering.

    In the end you might survive. Do not expect the remains of your culture to be so nice a clean as in this soap opera, you will end up in pretty messy dark ages. After that you may try to survive the real long term effect as radioactive poisoning of soil, failure of agriculture and general harshness of life. It will be bad but not as bad as this crappy uninformed movie.
  • jep83122 January 2005
    Warning: Spoilers
    This, along with Chan Is Missing (which is of the same era), is one of my favorite movies of all time and for pretty much the same reasons: It proves that all you really need is good writing, good acting and good directing.Special effects and even high production values are secondary, possibly even irrelevant. (I think this film is vastly superior to The Day After, which dealt with the same plot and came out at approximately the same time.) I don't want to repeat what others have already said so eloquently. I just want to point out some highlights that demonstrate the structure and subtlety of this film by a highly regarded female director.

    CAUTION POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD At the start, the town's children are practicing, and eventually, despite everything, they do perform, the play, "The Pied Piper of Hamlin." In that famous medieval story, the children of the the town all disappear because of the short-sightedness and stubbornness of the adults. Think about that, and you will see the connection here.

    When the movie begins, the protagonist's biggest problem is obtaining an appropriate gift for her son's upcoming birthday. By the time the birthday arrives, she is lucky that the child is even still alive.

    The handicapped Japanese-American child "Hiroshi" has already been mentioned. But there is another reminder of World War II -- the Elden female music teacher, apparently an Orthodox Jewish Holocaust survivor.

    To me, the single most heartbreaking moment in the film is when the screen goes to black and you hear the sound of cloth ripping. You know that the mother is tearing up bedsheets to make a shroud for her child.

    I wish that this film would be shown on television again -- as soon as possible. I think some people in Washington need to see it.
  • I saw this film in 1983 soon after it came out. The film affected me greatly. (A child of the Cold War era, I had stuffed canned goods into a knapsack during the week of the Cuban Missile Crisis.) After viewing the film, I immediately arranged to borrow a 16mm copy from the local library and to rent a projector to show it. I contacted neighbourhood parents to ask if any of their children would like come and watch the film. Then, one evening, I went to the library, got the film, picked up the projector, collected the children, threaded the projector, and showed the film. I did this because I felt that if only one child was moved by seeing the film to try to prevent the catastrophe it portrayed, it was worth the effort.
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