How I Live Now

How I Live Now

  • How I Live Now resists the urge to over explain. Rather than using expository devices, Director Kevin Macdonald thrusts us into the center of his plot line, using brief snippets of newscasts and stunted adult conversations, as well as wide camera angles, to show us what’s happening in the film’s world.
  • It is a brilliant directorial strategy that could have generated suspense if the rest of the film’s first half had been equally successful.
  • But it isn’t, largely because the script doesn’t develop Daisy’s changed attitudes. She goes from outwardly scorning her cousins, to suddenly loving them so fiercely that she burns her opportunity to return to the United States. Is a single frivolous day swimming with distant relatives enough to cause a stubborn youngster to change all of her perceptions, even in the face of extraordinary danger? Personally, I don’t think so.
  • Moreover, the film doesn’t develop Edmund (a compelling George McKay). He is an ideal teenage male: handsome, caring, sensitive and determined. There is nothing else to him.
  • Which means the romance between Daisy and Edmund never rings true.
  • The script never explains Edmund’s almost preternatural ability to handle animals or Daisy’s psychic premonitions, which might be why both feel tonally out of place.
  • About half way through the film, McDonald stops using the multi-track voice over that gives us Daisy’s muddled thought processes. Then, he brings it back in the movie’s climax. Both the omission and return are awkward.
  • For all of that, How I Live Now remains engaging.
  • Mostly because the actors are very good, especially Ronan. Following a set back in The Host, Ronan reminds us why so many moviegoers are captivated by her potential. She is wildly charismatic and effective here.
  • When the film shifts gears and becomes a tale of military intervention after devastating attack, it develops increased energy and suspense.
  • There are a lot of beautiful shots and landscapes to view.
  • Daisy’s development improves during the movie’s second half, as she tries to return to her cousins’ farm, all the while caring for Piper (Harley Bird). Her profanity-laden tirade against Piper is moving filmmaking, partially because Ronan’s performance is excellent, and partially because we have come to better understand her character.
  • The apocalyptic nuclear war is handled with subtle restraint throughout. We see enough to feel what’s happening, but not so much that we lose focus on Piper and Daisy.
  • I wish Macdonald had had the courage to name a terrorist group, even if it had been fictionalized. Because we never learn the attacker’s identity, the threat doesn’t feel genuine.
  • I also wish Macdonald had excised the cheesy expository voice over that closes How I Live Now. It too directly tells us Daisy’s thoughts, something that is in stark contrast to the rest of the movie.
  • In the end, then, How I Live Now isn’t great. But it is watchable.
  • Final Grade: C

8 thoughts on “How I Live Now

  1. When the shift occurs, it felt deserved, rather than totally jarring. However, this is where Macdonald still doesn’t seem able to say anything interesting or meaningful, even while the promise for doing so is totally there. Good review.

    • I really liked the The Last King of Scotland, too. McDonald is the primary reason I caught this one (well and the trailer is great).

      It’s second half is near fantastic, but it’s first half doesn’t equal what comes later. Hence the mediocre final grade. It’s worth viewing, though. That’s for sure.

  2. I really enjoyed Last King of Scotland but it does seem to be the general consensus that this film is slightly disappointing. The trailer didn’t really convince me either. Bit of a shame, but will give it a watch when I get the time.

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