Kevin Macdonald exploded onto the indie film scene when he made the remarkable TOUCHING THE VOID. He followed that up with the equally remarkable THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND. I also really liked STATE OF PLAY. I missed THE EAGLE, but the reviews were mixed at best. I enjoyed his MARLEY documentary last year too. All in all, I think this dude’s got some talent.
His latest stars Saorise Ronan as Daisy, a rebellious teen whose father drops her off at her cousin’s (by marriage only) to live with for awhile, due to the war that is about to break out around the world. Her cousin’s live in the countryside in England. At first, Daisy doesn’t want anything to do with her cousins. She’s one of those brooding teenagers that listens to punk music and dresses trashy, and likes to be anti-social. But then she sees what her older cousin Eddie looks like. He’s a hunk. Soon, she begins to hang out with her cousins at a nearby swimming hole. Since the aunt is hardly ever around, they can pretty much do what they want. It isn’t long before Eddie and Daisy become romantically involved. But then war happens,soldiers come and separate them. The boys, Eddie and Isaac go to military training, while Daisy and her younger cousin Piper, are relocated to a suburban area, living with an older lady. Daisy decides that she and Piper are better off on their own, and they runaway, determined to go back to their isolated cottage, hoping that Eddie and Issac will return there as well. Of course it won’t be an easy journey.
Sorry, I kind of gave away the whole plot, but there really wasn’t any other way of explaining what this film was about. Now, I do like post apocalyptic-type movies. THE ROAD made my top 10 in 2009. I did like in this movie how they don’t really explain why the war is going to happen. We just know that it IS going to happen. And when it does, I believe it’s just as confusing and chaotic as it really would be. I liked that the point of view was through Daisy and the kids. They didn’t need to show all of this other footage of destruction across the globe. That would be impersonal I think. I appreciated that this was a more intimate approach. And the journey that Daisy and Piper experience is a pretty frightening one. So the filmmakers did a good job with this aspect.
I can almost recommend the movie, but the romance is a bit on the TWILIGHT side. It’s not THAT bad, but the love angle does get laid on a little thick from time to time. Making Eddie this great hunk with a perfect body just seemed like they were trying to get a bunch tweens interested in the movie. Which is odd, since the film is Rated R and is obviously geared at adults. So this tween romance thing kind of feet out-of-place. Now, I do think a romance between these two characters could have worked, but how it’s executed is straight out of a teeny bopper film.
The performances are mostly decent. I am really starting to like Saorise Ronan a lot. She is definitely picking risky material. I’m glad she’s not doing teeny High School films. And she’s definitely talented, though I think her character is a bit too brooding at first. George MacKay as Eddie is fine, but he doesn’t have much to do except look dreamy. Tom Holland is much better as his little brother Issac, who has a fun sense of humor. My favorite performance comes from 10-year-old Harley Bird, who plays Piper. Her character experiences a lot for someone her age, and the way Bird portrays her (as a smart, but innocent little girl) is very heartbreaking. It’s essentially the loss of innocence. She has some pretty dramatic scenes that she pulls off wonderfully. This is definitely an actress to keep a look out for.
Macdonald’s direction is very similar to his other films using a quasi-documentary style, with handheld camerawork and also using some jump cutting. It’s effective for the movie, giving it a raw and gritty feel. The problem lies within the script. The romance isn’t very natural. It’s contrived. Instead of showing Daisy and Eddie falling for each other through genuine interaction, we just get lots of montages of them giving googly eyes to each other. It just didn’t fit with the raw nature of the film’s tone. The movie does have a pretty good punk soundtrack though.
There are some worthy things about HOW I LIVE NOW. I liked the general story and anything involving the war storyline. but the romance felt like it was out of a teeny bopper film. It’s too bad because this could have been a very good post-apocalyptic tale, instead it’s just an okay one. ★★½ (out of ★★★★)
– Rated R for violence, disturbing images, language and some sexuality.
– Running time: 1 hr 40min.