Review: How I Live Now ★★★☆☆


Based on award winning novel by Meg Rosoff, this teenage romance crossed with futuristic war-time drama is certainly not to everyone’s taste.

Saoirse Ronan stars as Daisy, a somewhat mentally unstable 16-year-old New-Yorker, sent to a world which couldn’t be further out of her comfort zone, the English countryside. What she doesn’t know is that with World War Three just around the corner she is about to be forced into a situation where she must be responsible for someone other than herself, something the ill-disposed teen certainly isn’t accustomed to.

The film starts, tasting like a typical teenage romance; surly suburban teenager meets country boy and they fall in love. Indeed if this had been a televised film most viewers would switch channels within minutes, however those who persevered would no doubt become caught up in the quietly terrifying twist.

Just as the inevitable romance begins to blossom a nuclear bomb is set off in London and director Kevin Macdonald really begins to show off, his impressionistic camera work transforming the beautiful landscapes into a disorientating nightmare.

It is only here that the pace of the script starts to pick up. Daisy and young cousin Piper (Harley Bird), having been separated from the boys, begin to embark on their long journey home. A journey which sees scenes of utter brutality contrasted with those of the love Daisy is fighting her way back to. And yet, although the direction, the acting, and the haunting music strive for a heart-wrenching picture, it remains difficult for the audience to care for the deaths of many characters for they are never known well enough. Even Ronan’s character is unfortunately vague, any audience expecting to connect with the bitter teen as the movie progresses will no doubt be disappointed due to the half-hearted explanation for her resentful nature. Not only does the characters lack of interest prevent her from being sympathised with, but it also hinders the plausibility of the story. Even the passionate bond described in Rosoff’s novel comes across as a naïve crush, something which is not helped by the incestuous nature of the relationship between Daisy and her cousin.

All in all this film was a masterpiece in terms of direction and execution – with an undoubtedly talented cast and crew – but was upended by the disappointing script and undeveloped characters. A film worth seeing, if only for the artistic brilliance of the director, and terrifyingly realistic concept behind the script.

How  I Live Now (2013), directed by Kevin Macdonald, is distributed in the UK by Momentum Pictures, Certificate 15.


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Third year English Literature student . Avid dreamer, lover of magic and all things Taylor Swift. Writer for The Edge and Wessex Scene, as well as regular all-round contributor and Living Editor for The National Student.

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