Film Review: How I Live Now
Somethingyousaid.com’s Colin Delaney discovers more than your average teen flick:
“What better time to become kissing-cousins than Tomorrow, When The War Began” is the gist of new film How I Live Now… just without the cynicism, thanks very much.
Adapted from the 2004 book of the same name by Meg Rosoff, the film is directed by Kevin MacDonald who made the very epic Touching the Void and The Last King of Scotland.
In another set of hands, this young adult fiction could have been adapted all-Twilighty – to say nothing of Rosoff’s book, cos I haven’t read it. Instead, courtesy of the lead character Daisy played by the unpronounceable, but always watchable Saoirse Ronan (Hanna) and a historic sense of realism, How I Live Now will engage beyond the book’s targeted demographic.
Daisy is a bratty New Yorker, sent away by her father and stepmother to stay with her cousins in the English countryside during a British summer, despite an undercurrent of social unrest within London.
With the cousins’ mother gone to Geneva to attend an emergency meeting regarding the aforementioned unrest, the farm becomes a parentless Neverland for the children. Too urban for fishing, too cool for swimming, germaphobe Daisy initially resists the kids’ bumpkin activities until sexy-silent type Eddie tackles her into their idyllic waterfall, and she succumbs to the country’s charms, not to mention cousin Eddie’s.
Back in London, the unspecified enemy has detonated a nuclear bomb and the fallout leads to blackouts, threatens food and water supply and creates a national state of war, with the army mobilised. Eddie goes into parental mode and won’t allow his family to be taken from their farm as they move from the main house to a hidden barn.
From here a Lord of the Flies/Red Dawn scenario could’ve been tempting. Far more realistically, it becomes an emotional prisoner-of-war film and road movie about a young family ripped apart with strong connotations to the German invasion of continental rural Europe during World War II.
With her crush also her cousin, it’s love-two fold that puts Daisy through her paces to grow from a whiny, shitty teen with a disdain for adults into a provider, protector and courageous fighter.
When MacDonald does veer from the realism to deliver the teen longing that drives Daisy, it’s never through soapy melodrama trappings, but rather slightly fantastical internalised moments in tone with the earlier Neverland connotations and blissful countryside (all courtesy of lens flare and saturation captured by cinematographer Franz Lustig).
Despite the lack of teen cliché derailment, the ending is wrapped up a little too easily given that nuclear fallout takes some time, as in many, many years, to mop up.
That said, this 30-something left the cinema unable to shake an anxious feeling of impending doom for a surprising amount of time, which tells me it’s more than your average teen popcorn flick. Definitely worth viewing.
Review by Colin Delaney. How I Live Now is released on November 28