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TESTAMENT starring JANE ALEXANDER, WILLIAM DEVANE, KEVIN COSTNER and LEON AMES with ROSS HARRIS and ROXANNA ZAL

Nuclear holocaust is brought to our doorstep in TESTAMENT, in which no bombs fall, at least not onscreen, and no firestorms consume cities, at least not onscreen. Instead, it's a simply told tale of a tight-knit small town in Northern California watching civilization -- and themselves -- slowly slip away in the aftermath of a nuclear exchange.

Jane Alexander (ELEANOR AND FRANKLIN, THE CIDER HOUSE RULES) gives perhaps her most heartfelt performance as Carol Wetherly, wife and mother, who tries to hold what's left of her family together as fallout from faraway San Francisco tightens its silent grip on her town. Her husband, Tom (William Devane: 24, THE MISSILES OF OCTOBER), called to say he was on his way home from the city when the bombs fell. The days and weeks of waiting for him to turn up are occupied with marshaling domestic and emotional resources around young teenagers Brad (Ross Harris), who finds new strength in his uncertain adolescent self as the new man of the house, and Mary Liz (Roxana Zal), who, in one of the most heartbreakingly sad scenes in the film, despairs to her mother of all the wonders of womanhood she is never going to experience.

Alexander is softly, steely maternal -- if anyone is going to see a family through a crisis, it would be her Carol. But of course this is something far beyond the control of even the most resourceful mom, of even the friendliest, most sociable town. No amount of hanging together, of looking out for one another, can save these people. The absence of mushroom clouds and twisted wreckage makes TESTAMENT more potent, in one way, than THE DAY AFTER, another nuclear holocaust film of the same time, by making sure none of us forget that we wouldn't have to be anywhere near a bomb to be a victim of nuclear war. TESTAMENT’s power comes in all the understatements that stress that point: one of the film's most devastating moments comes when Carol's neighbor Phil (Kevin Costner, in one of his first film appearances) shuffles wordlessly, blankly, down the neighborhood sidewalk, tenderly cradling a bureau drawer that's just the right size to serve as a coffin for his child.

A powerful, unforgettable experience.

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