IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 101 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
As World War 3 seems increasingly likely, Daisy, a moody but strong-willed teenager from New York City, is sent to the English countryside for the summer to stay with her British cousins, Eddie, Isaac and Piper. Although initially reluctant to interact with them, she finds herself warming up upon learning that her deceased mother used to stay there frequently. She also falls in love with Eddie. However, Daisy’s perfect summer is shattered when an unspecified enemy detonate a nuclear bomb in London, killing thousands, and causing a nuclear fallout as far away as their home. Shortly after, a member of the US Consulate in Edinburgh arrives at the house to give Daisy papers which will grant her passage home, telling her that she must leave immediately…..
Considering it is based on another popular ‘young adult’ novel, I had fears that this would be yet another dire Twilight-wannabe along the lines of Saoirse Ronan’s previous movie The Host, and the first third or so of How I Live Now isn’t too great, but it does get much better. Ronan, given the chance to play a somewhat more ‘normal’ part for once, is the archetypal rumpy, aloof teen who is thrown into a world which she initially has no interest in. The film isn’t very interesting for a while, and the device of letting us hear Daisy’s thoughts aloud is just annoying, though not as annoying as the ‘shakycam’, one-second-editing crap director Kevin MacDonald is too fond of. In fact, it sometimes looks like two different directors, or maybe two different cameramen, shot this movie, one who gives us stunning shots of the English countyside and really evokes the locations, and one whose idea of filming action is to wave the camera about like an epileptic and can’t even keep it steady doing dialogue scenes.
Nonetheless, the portrayal of a future Britain under military law is convincing and is actually helped by us not knowing who the enemy is or even if they have arrived in England or not. The second half, of Daisy and her cousin Piper [very well played by Harley Bird who should really have second billing as she’s almost always present for the second half] trekking to return home is very compelling and tense. The horror of war is not emphasised but still omnipresent, along with a few grim moments like Daisy ripping open body bags to find her cousin. Though there are only a few bits of violence and swearing, it admirably refuses to tame things down for a 12A rating, though it’s possible that this may have sadly hurt its box office chances. After a shaky first third then a solid and sometimes gripping watch, enhanced by a very good and varied John Murphy score, by far his best yet.