HOW I LIVE NOW (2013)
Set in a not far off future, this British thriller tells the story of Elizabeth (Saoirse Ronan) … or ‘Daisy’ as she prefers to be called… a troubled and rebellious American teen sent by her father to live with her 3 cousins and aunt in the remote English countryside. At the same time there is a growing, and unspecified, conflict occurring within Western Europe as we see heightened security at the airports and TV stories of bombings in Paris. Daisy is at first very cold and resistant to the efforts of her distant family members to make her feel welcome, until she starts to have feelings for her oldest cousin, the handsome Edmund (George MacKay). But, as her defenses come down and she starts to let herself enjoy the charming farmhouse and the company of her cousins… especially Edmund… a nuclear device is detonated in London and the country falls under martial law as it appears an armed incursion is underway. With her aunt away, the four kids must fend for themselves and as the countryside is now being evacuated, Daisy rejects an offer from the US consulate to send her home, so she can remain with Edmund and his younger siblings. But, her choice only sees the military enter their farm and, amid promises to find their way back to each other, separate the group sending she and little cousin Piper (Harley Bird) to a military compound to live with a British officer and his wife, while Edmund and Issac (Tom Holland) are sent to a training facility. Now separated from the first thing in her life that truly makes her happy, Daisy plans to escape with Piper and find her way back through the chaos and violence to the idyllic farmhouse in the hopes of reuniting with the boy and new life she’s come to love. But, many miles and a country consumed in bloody conflict is between she and her happiness. How I Live Now is a grim and intense story directed by The Last King Of Scotland’s Kevin Macdonald based on a novel by Meg Rosoff. We never find out who is attacking or what the conflict is about, as it isn’t important. It’s about Daisy’s struggle to reunite with her loved ones, not a struggle between countries or governments. And what really makes it work is that Macdonald never lets his characters or the audience give up hope, despite what is happening around them and we are as driven to see Daisy reach ‘home’ as she is. Macdonald deftly sets us up by introducing us to the somewhat cold and ungrateful brat that Daisy first appears as, then slowly lets her walls crumble as she starts to realize how much she likes life with her English family and of course, Edmund, who steals her heart. He then takes it all away from her as the very world around them is violently coming apart and dammit if we are not just as passionate about our heroine beating the odds and finding her way back with Piper in tow, as Daisy is. The film is both love story and survival drama and it works and very powerfully so at times. The film is unflinching about the cruelties of war and it’s effects on man and beast and Daisy’s journey is a grim one. But, despite how dark this tale gets… and it does… it’s still about hope and like Daisy, we refuse to give up ours as we follow her on her relentless quest. None of Kevin Macdonald’s efforts would have made a difference if it he didn’t have the right actress in the lead role and teen Saoirse Ronan not only carries this film but, gives a powerhouse performance as an emotionally troubled teen who’s mother died giving her life and has a strained at best relationship with her dad. And now that she’s finally found something and someone she can hold dear, she will tenaciously do anything to keep them. Ronan takes us through Daisy’s change from bitter and distant teen to a young woman willing to fight and literally wade through enemy territory to reunite with loved ones and regain the happiness she’s wanted all her young life. It is a heavy emotional load and she pulls if off very well and combined with Macdonald’s skilled direction, turns this into a gripping film where the wrong touch or performance could have made it a laughable mess. It’s the type of story that if handled wrong could have fallen apart but, as is, the film punches all the right buttons and at all the right times… from it’s quite beginning right up till it’s quietly powerful last scene. Highly Recommended. A very emotionally involving film that reminds us that no matter how bad things get, there is always hope.
3 and 1/2 hawks!… watch the film to find out why.