Over the years, we have seen a whole host of memoirs adapted for the big screen. Some looked at war and the impact that had on them and their country, while others explore poverty, or are coming of age stories.
Testament of Youth is the latest memoir to have been adapted for the big screen and is based on the book of the same name by Vera Brittain.
To celebrate the release of the film adaptation, out on digital platforms from 8th May 2015, and on Blu-ray and DVD from 25th May 2015, courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment, we look back on some of the best memoirs to be adapted to the big screen...
- Testament of Youth (2014)
Testament of Youth is one of the early memoir adaptations of 2015 and is based on the book of the same name by Vera Brittain. It is was a memoir that looked at the impact the First World War had on women and is widely recognised as one of the best pieces of feminist literature.
Vera Brittain (Alicia Vikander), irrepressible, intelligent, and free-minded, overcomes the prejudices of her family and hometown to win a scholarship to Oxford. With everything to live for, she falls in love with her brother's close friend Roland Leighton (Kit Harington) as they go to University to pursue their literary dreams. But the First World War is looming and as the boys leave for the front Vera realises she cannot sit idly by as her peers fight for their country, so volunteers as a nurse.
Both Vikander and Harington bring a wonderful playfulness to their initial courtship (with brilliant comedic support from Joanna Scanlan as their chaperone), and as the war separates them evolve this chemistry into something utterly moving.
- Angela's Ashes (1999)
Based on the memoirs of Irish author Frank McCourt, Angela's Ashes was co-written and directed by Alan Parker, and starred Emily Watson and Robert Carlyle as McCourt's parents.
Recounting his childhood, the film tracks McCourt (played by Joe Breen, Ciaran Owens and Michael Legge at different points in his life) as he moves from America to Ireland due to financial difficulties, and his constant attempts to earn enough money to one day move back to the States.
I read Angela's Ashes some years ago and it is a powerful memoir about a tough childhood growing up in Ireland. If you haven't had the chance to read the book then it is one that I urge you to pick up and check out.
The movie does capture the gloominess of the book and effectively shows the devastating effect of poverty. It is a powerful and poignant portrait of struggle in what is a great adaptation of a fine memoir.
- The Pianist (2002)
Roman Polanski's adaptation of pianist and composer Wladyslaw Szpilman's memoirs was met with huge critical acclaim when released in 2002, and recounts the life of Szpilman (played by an Oscar-winning Adrien Brody), as he tried to survive the destruction of a Warsaw ghetto in WWII, escaping deportation and eluding capture by the Nazis by living in the ruins.
Brody famously lost 14kg for the role, and got rid of his apartment and car to try to connect to the feelings of loss he felt were required to play the role.
The Pianist is widely regarded as one the greatest Holocaust movies that has ever been made and sees both director and actor on top form.
The Pianist is a harrowing, heartbreaking, and hard to watch and yet, this is a movie about the strength of the human spirit and hope. Brody gives the best performance of his career as the movie rests squarely on his shoulders.
He is in virtually every frame of this movie and he has delivered a performance that is just packed with heart and soul. The Pianist is a movie that stays with you long after the credits have rolled.
- My Week with Marilyn (2011)
Michelle Williams stars as the late Hollywood starlet Marilyn Monroe in Simon Curtis' delightful adaptation of two books by Colin Clark, which describe his experiences working on the production of the 1957 film The Prince and the Showgirl, starring both Monroe and Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh).
The film focuses on the week Monroe spent in London escorted by Clark - here played by the wide-eyed, utterly disarming Eddie Redmayne.
Williams is one of the most talented actress working in Hollywood at the moment as she portrayed Monroe so beautifully in this movie. She struck a perfect balance between the confident icon that we all know and love with the insecurities and the struggles that she faced in her personal life.
You never question that Williams is Monroe as she totally immerses herself in this role - it is Williams' performance that keeps you captivated from opening scenes to closing credits. Eddie Redmayne is also terrific as Colin Clark and together he and Monroe sizzle.
Williams went on to pick up a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her performance but lost out to Meryl Steep for The Iron Lady.
- An Education (2009)
British film An Education was directed by Lone Scherfig and its script from author Nick Hornby was based on a memoir by British journalist Lynn Barber. It recounts a tempestuous love affair she had in her teenage years with an older man, with the film starring Carey Mulligan in her first leading role, as the 16-year-old Jenny who becomes involved with Peter Sarsgaard's Jewish businessman, David Goldman.
There's fantastic support from Dominic Cooper and Rosamund Pike as David's fun, flighty friends who introduce Jenny to their lavish world - with Pike offering a particularly brilliant comedic turn as the ditzy Helen.
An Education was one of the best British movies to hit the big screen back in 2009 and was the movie that really propelled Carey Mulligan to superstardom and showed her off as the fine actress that we all know her to be.
It is Mulligan that truly shines in this charming coming of age movie as she carries the weight of this movie with ease. She went on to pick up her first Best Actress Oscar nomination for her great performance.
An Education is a movie that is funny, witty, and intelligent as Lone Scherfig tells tale without being judgemental on the decisions that are made by the central character.
- The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
This Spanish biopic is based upon the memoir of 23-year-old Ernesto Guevara (played by Gael García Bernal) and recounts his 1952 expedition across South America alongside his friend Alberto Granado by motorcycle.
Several years later, Ernesto would become known internationally as revolutionary Che Guevara, and in The Motorcycle Diaries, he finds himself transformed by his observations on impoverished life that they encounter on their trek.
Hard to believe, The Motorcycle Diaries is a movie that is already over a decade old and yet it remains one of the best films in this genre.
The formative years of Ernesto 'Che' Guevara is not something that has been explored all that often on the big screen - we usually just see him as the infamous revolutionary that we all know he became.
The Motorcycle Diaries is a thought-provoking and engaging biopic with to great performance at its core; Bernal and Rodrigo De la Serna really are terrific. The movie is also set to a spectacular backdrop and director Walter Salles has used this breathtaking cinematography to elevate this film to the ultimate road tip film.
- 127 Hours (2010)
Aron Ralston's much talked about memoir Between a Rock and a Hard Place tells the story of how the adventurer became trapped by a boulder in Utah in April 2003, spawning Danny Boyle's Oscar-nominated film 127 Hours, in which James Franco plays Ralston.
With his arm stuck behind a boulder for the majority of the running time, Boyle's film does well in encapsulating Ralston's incredible desire to live.
127 Hours is one of the best solo actor movies that we have seen in recent years - this movie rests solely on the shoulders of Franco... and he delivers the performance of his acting career to date.
You wouldn't expect a movie with just one actor and predominately one location to be as tense a watch as 127 Hours, but this is a movie that will have you on the edge of your seat as Aaron battles to survive.
127 Hours is also a very touching movie - the moments where Aaron is hallucinating about his family and realising the error of his ways when it comes to his selfish lifestyle are some of the most powerful.
127 House is a movie about endurance, the will to survive, and the unbreakable human spirit - Boyle has captured all of these elements perfectly to make this a movie that you cannot take your eyes off.
- Persepolis (2007)
This French-American animated film is based on Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical graphic novel, directed by the lady herself alongside Vincent Paronnaud.
Following a young girl as she comes of age against the backdrop of the Iranian Revolution, the film tells the factual story of Satrapi, with the title referring to the historic New Persian city of Persepolis.
Persepolis marked the feature film directorial debut for Satrapi - it really is one of the best debuts that I have seen in a long time.
On one hand Persepolis is an account of one country's fight for freedom during the revolution in Iran and how, even when things go from bad to worse, many of them hold onto a little shred of hope. However, the film is also a coming of age story that tackles the idea of innocence and how war took that innocence and carefree existence away. But Persepolis also very much focuses on the feminist struggle in Iran and this is beautifully contrasted with Marjane's experiences in Europe.
The monochrome animation is beautiful yet stark and this is mixed with the surprise humour that is in the script. The political element is very understated throughout the whole film but when it does raise its head, it's like a slap in the face.
Persepolis went on pick up a Best Animated Feature Oscar, but lost out to Ratatouille.
Testament of Youth is available on digital platforms from 8th May 2015, and on Blu-ray and DVD from 25th May 2015, courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment.