How I Live Now (2013)

There’s nothing like a bit of nuclear war to break up young romance is there?

Based on the book by the same name by Meg Rosoff, How I Live Now focuses on American teenager Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) who is forced to stay with her cousins in the English Countryside. Initially hostile and dismissive of her cousins she soon starts to bond with them, especially the oldest cousin Eddie (George MacKay). However when terrorists detonate a nuclear bomb in London the cousins are thrust into a new world, one which threatens to keep them apart from each other.

At first Daisy comes across as sulky and annoying, but it’s obvious that she is supposed to be this way and I liked seeing her soften as she grows closer to her cousins, becoming a proper part of their family.  At the beginning she comes across rather selfish and a bit useless, but as the movie progresses she becomes a stronger character, who knows what she wants and fights for it, while also protecting her younger cousin Piper (Harley Bird). Ronan is terrific in the role and you really get behind the character and hopes she make it through the movie in one piece.

The director Kevin Macdonald brings a strong sense of place, whether it’s the idyllic, isolated farmhouse where the cousins spend a dream-like summer together, or the nightmare-sights of the outside world where we see the real damage that the bombs have caused and how humanity is coping. Considering Macdonald’s previous work included State of Play and The Last King of Scotland I was wondering how he was going to handle a YA adaptation. Luckily he treats this film with respect and just as seriously as any others, he is also not afraid to show the audience the horrors of war. The film goes into some dark places at times which some may find upsetting but is essential to make us believe in this world where war and chaos has taken over.

While the romance between Daisy and Eddie was sweet and the actors have good chemistry, it was hard getting pass the fact that they were cousins. I know a lot of YA romance focuses on forbidden love, but there’s forbidden and then there’s blood related. So the fact that they were cousins distracted me quite a bit which was a shame as otherwise they would have been an easy couple to root for.

A strong, sometimes unsettling movie with a strong lead in Saoirse Ronan, How I Live Now is an emotionally rich movie that should be watched.

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