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Tom Bruce reviews "How I Live Now" (2013)- 2/5

By Tom Bruce
 
Tom Bruce reviews
 
Saoirse Ronan is mesmerising in every way. She is destined for worldwide success, critical acclaim and probably an Oscar or two. They won’t be coming from this film though. 
 
Plot: Impetuous 16 year old American Daisy (Ronan) is sent to stay with family in the remote English country side on the verge of a potential WW3. She falls in love with cousin Edmond (Mackay) but when London is nuked by an unknown enemy the pair get separated- but not before agreeing to escape and return home.
 
How I Live Now sees neurotic teenager Daisy (Ronan) sent from her home in New York to stay with family in the remote English countryside to protect her from potential nuclear fallout. Despite her obsessive compulsions and the controlling voices in her head she breaks out of her superficial shell to enjoy the simple country life and indulge in an incestuous relationship with cousin Edmond (George Mackay).  When UN statistician and head of the house Aunt Penn (Anna Chancellor) rushes off to Switzerland the children are left all alone. Then London gets nuked. In response, the children/teenagers move to a nearby barn whereupon they enjoy a Famous Five-esque care free life, with lashings of inter-familial sex. This idyll is shattered when government soldiers turn up and separate the boys from the girls and cart them off to safe zones around the country. Daisy and Edmond vow to escape and reunite at all costs.
Tom Bruce reviews
This film is feels like a bizarre cross between a Beatrix Potter book and bleak apocalyptic vision The Road (2009). The tonal shifts are astoundingly ill judged- one minute two girls are enjoying some chocolates and having a nice sit down then BLAM- Rape party! Such radical jumps from dull tween drama to violent horror show riddle How I Live Now and make it unsuitable for any demographic. Pacing is way off too; the first forty minutes of fairy tale fun drag on for an age before some overly aggressive TA’s show up at the front door and kick/ shoot it in. If the international conflict has been explored in any depth the film would have been more bearable. As it is the invaders and their motives are never explained. We also don’t know how they managed to overwhelm the UK so quickly, besides ‘contaminating the water supply’ (apparently this even affects isolated ponds). 
 
Daisy is an incredibly unlikeable lead and displays no redeeming qualities for 90% of the film. Between her selfish obsession to reunite with star crossed lover Edmond (he instinctively knows about the voices in her head…oh, and he can talk to cows) and threatening to let her eight year old cousin ‘f***ing DIE’ it is hard to muster any sympathy as she makes the journey home. 
 
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Compounding the drudgery, the cinematography is dull too (aside from one out of place Tarantino-esque whip pan/zoom as a soldier gets shot in the head). Overall this is a confusing and disappointing affair from Kevin Macdonald, best known for his highly acclaimed, Academy Award winning The Last King of Scotland. The explorations of the fragility of society and the struggle of human existence feel well-trodden and flat. Far and away the highlight of the film is this unintentionally hilarious sequence; a thirteen year old boy swigs from a hip flask, grimacing and offering it to his companions before calling some terrorists ‘cu***’. Ah yes, Nuclear war- the millions of deaths are one thing, but its ability to turn innocent young lads into raging, violent alcoholic nut jobs in matter of weeks is the real blow to humanity. But at least there will still be chocolate.
 
Director:  Kevin Macdonald
Certificate:  15
Cast:  Saoirse Ronan, George MacKay, Tom Holland, Anna Chancellor
Running Time:  101 min
 
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