How I Live Now
- Rob Carnevale
- 1 October 2013
Kevin Macdonald's treatment of Meg Rosoff's young adult story is grown-up and thought-provoking
It may be based on yet another young adult novel but How I Live Now rates among the better adaptations thanks to a director who is prepared to take some risks with the material. Kevin Macdonald opts for a gritty and realistic approach, imbuing this big screen version of Meg Rosoff’s award-winning text with something more grown-up and thought-provoking, while simultaneously giving his cast of young British stars plenty to work with.
When moody US teenager Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) is sent to Britain to stay with her cousins in the countryside her initial petulance gives way to romance when she falls for eldest teen, Edmond (George MacKay). However, when terrorists detonate a nuclear device in London, prompting military intervention, Daisy finds herself separated from Edmond and placed in a work camp, from where she eventually escapes in a bid to be reunited.
Macdonald’s film may operate within the same genre as past releases like Tomorrow, When The War Began and Red Dawn but it’s more intelligent and a lot darker than those films. The violence is often shocking, while the minutes leading up to and following the detonation of the bomb are genuinely haunting and shot from the confused and frightened perspective of the teenagers. The script also allows the characters to feel more layered, rather than simply reducing them to love-struck teens, and it isn’t afraid to make them work for our sympathy. Ronan, especially, is difficult to engage with early on, slowly revealing Daisy’s insecurities, while there’s strong support from MacKay (clearly on the rise with Sunshine on Leith) and The Impossible’s Tom Holland. Macdonald’s decision to make viewers fill in some of the film’s blanks, rather than spoon-feeding them everything, also helps to ensure the film maintains a tighter grip on your attention.
General release from Fri 4 Oct.