"How I Live Now" Review: Craig's First Take

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An American girl sent to the English countryside to stay with relatives finds herself fighting for her survival as the UK turns into a violent military state.
2.5

Saoirse Ronan was so good in “Atonement” and “Hanna” that i’ve actually been excited about her several leading roles in 2013, “The Host” I even read and as a book I actually enjoyed it (less said about the film the better). But that’s just the point. Her film choices this year have not been good and we can now add “How I Live Now”, based on another YA novel by Meg Rosoff, to the pile. It’s particularly disappointing because “Last King of Scotland” and “Touching the Void’s” Kevin MacDonald directs.

Ronan plays Indie punk Daisy, forced by her father to make the trip to England to live with her step-cousins. Daisy, we realize, has a slew of emotional and eating problems (we hear the running voice over in her head) and snaps at basically every one, except her hunky step-cousin Edmond (George MacKay).

MacDonald has a limited way with romance. He focuses on lite intimacy (like a handshake) and then asks us to make a bigger deal out of that than it is. Later Edmond tells her to stop listening to her head, and all of a sudden her black eye-liner and torn pants are gone and her bitchiness has been replaced by an unquenchable love. This all happens within a couple minutes. Then it’s all living fun and fancy free at the farmhouse for all the cousins until a terrorist attack puts London under martial law and the girls and boys are separated.

A war breaks out but the movie is more concerned with the romance, having Daisy and her whiney cousin Piper (Harley Bird) escape and try to make the trip back in hopes of returning to Edmond. They see a lot of horrors, via movies like “The Road”, along the way. Just the phoniness of the romance in the early-going extends even more to the war, a completely arbitrary thing only there to keep lovers apart. It reminded me of “The Impossible” in the way it only seems to care if the main characters reunite.

“How I Live Now” does seem like two movies, one the YA love story and the other a YA war film but I don’t hate the combination as much as I really don’t like the contrived, frivolous way they are put together. The film has nothing to say about depression or war other than love is better than both. Wow, who knew?

Final Verdict: ** (out of four)