How I Live Now (2013)

Saoirse Roman and George MacKay in How I Live Now (2013)

How I Live Now is a good movie whose potential greatness is squandered by a staggeringly wrong-headed romantic plotline. The set-up of the film is engaging – sixteen year-old American teenager Daisy (Saoirse Roman) moves to England to stay with her cousins just as the country is embroiled in a devastating nuclear war, the details of which are kept deliberately vague. I love big stories like world war told from a narrow perspective, and How I Live Now demonstrates why they can be so effective, with emotional moments amplified by our closeness to these characters.

While the strongest moments in the film remain compelling, Daisy’s illicit romance with her cousin Eddie (George MacKay) consistently drags the film down. MacKay’s performance is dismal and the writing is no better, piling on Young Adult conventions while unnecessarily contextualising Daisy as dependent on Eddie. The romance also leads director Kevin Macdonald to indulge in his worst tendencies, framing these lovers with drippy soft lighting and slow-motion.

The engaging punky, prickly introduction and a lilting montage conveying bleakness of the post-war setting without resorting to post-apocalyptic clichés are high points, aesthetically, in a film that’s often impressive but inconsistent in both its presentation and quality.

2.5 stars

6 thoughts on “How I Live Now (2013)

  1. Good review Dave. The change in tone and story-structure really threw me for a loop. However, it worked, as it made what was a pretty dull story, actually interesting and tense.

    • Yeah, I didn’t necessarily mind the shift into darker territory, and thought that was generally executed quite well – especially the scene where she finds the pile of [SPOILERS, I guess] bodies. Just wish that Daisy’s character had been given some motivation other than “find my hot cousin with the guidance of my dreams.”

  2. I quite wanted to see this but it was only on for about a week. Kind of think I didn’t miss much now.

    • I don’t want to warn you away from it; it’s a flawed, inconsistent film but there are some really strong scenes here. Not a glowing recommendation, I know, but I certainly don’t regret seeing it!

  3. Nice review mate. Even though you didn’t love this, you liked it a lot more than me. I thought this was utterly dire. You’re right, the relationship is the major issue, but there is not much else good going on either.

    • Maybe I just have a soft spot for films like this? I like when there’s all this big, world-changing stuff going on, but we don’t get any of the details because we share the perspective of the characters. If they could have focused more on that, and made Daisy less defined by her bond with Eddie, I reckon there could have been a really good film here.

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