How I Live Now (2013)
Directed by Kevin Macdonald
Based on How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
Running time: 101 minutes
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
An American girl, sent to the English countryside to stay with relatives, finds love and purpose while fighting for her survival as war envelops the world around her.
I watched this movie having no idea what to expect as I knew nothing about it other than reading the plot synopsis online. It sounded like it could be a cheesy YA post-apocalyptic romance as it’s based on a YA book (that I’ve actually not read! Thought I’d read that entire genre). No, this movie isn’t exactly cheesy. It has a more serious tone than I was expecting and is more like a weird combination of the original Red Dawn (not that awful remake – Chris Hemworth’s hotness couldn’t even save that) and that SUPER DEPRESSING British TV movie Threads (I don’t recommend that one – bloody hell!). But with a love story thrown in, of course. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how convincing the romance really is and Saoirse Ronan’s character is hard to sympathize with, even after seeing the hell she goes through after war breaks out while she’s in a foreign country. Well, foreign to her – she’s an American in the UK. Like me!
First of all, I’ll say this movie is very “me” as I’m obsessed with post-apocalyptic fiction. I’ve read most the YA novels in this genre, I did a list of My Top Ten Apocalyptic Movies (HERE), and the only story I’ve ever written in my life was about a group of teenagers who’ve survived an apocalypse (it sucked, of course – I’m not a writer). This was years before this & all the “dystopian future” YA novels were such a big thing & I love that it’s such a huge genre now (even if it IS getting a little old it’s still better than Sweet Valley High). Anyway, How I Live Now feels much more realistic than the future we see in movies such as The Hunger Games & The Maze Runner. It’s set now (I believe) instead of some unspecified future and very much feels like something that could happen at any moment. I think this makes it a much more powerful movie. It may not be as “entertaining” as The Hunger Games but it feels a lot more grown-up than other YA stuff, which is something I really liked about the film.
However, I unfortunately found it really hard to relate to the characters – especially Saoirse Ronan’s “teenager with issues & an attitude problem” Daisy. She’s very neurotic before the war breaks out & she does learn to stop worrying about all the superficial things in life that really don’t matter after London is bombed but she still comes across as very selfish since all she seems to care about now is being with the boy she’s fallen in love with since coming to England. Or should I say… her COUSIN?! Did I miss something? Anyone who has seen this feel free to correct me if I’m wrong but… they’re cousins, right? Like, possibly first cousins? I know they don’t say what her exact relationship is to them through her mother but that’s a little weird! Anyway, I had no issues with any of her cousins. The young girl named Piper (who I found out is the voice of Peppa Pig after watching this. how did I not notice that? I hate Peppa Pig!) and a boy named Isaac are both very sweet but Eddie, the one Daisy falls in love with, doesn’t have much of a personality. I can’t help but feel that these two main characters are probably MUCH more developed in the book. I think the movie really doesn’t do a great job fleshing these two out so I may read the book now as I really liked the story. If they’d done a better job with the main characters, I think I’d have liked this movie a lot more than I did.
How I Live Now may be based on one of a myriad of “post-apocalyptic YA” novels but has a more serious & realistic approach and feels much more grown-up. I liked the tone of the film and found the soundtrack very interesting. Aside from Nick Drake, I’ve not heard of any of the artists on the soundtrack which is unusual for me – It’s cool to hear some songs I don’t already know in a movie. Unfortunately, the characters aren’t very well developed & I didn’t feel like I knew anything more about Saoirse Ronan’s Daisy at the end of the film than I did at the beginning. I think it would be worth reading the book first to really understand Daisy’s feelings & motivations. It’s a good story overall but I’m thinking it just didn’t fully translate to film. If it sounds like something you might like, I’m going to recommend reading the book first even though I have yet to read it myself. I just think it’s likely you’ll get to know far more about the characters than you do in the movie.
My Review: 6.5/10