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.