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Film Review: Muddling through 'How I Live Now'

November 08, 2013|By Andy Klein
  • Tom Holland, Saoirse Ronan George MacKay and Harley Bird in "How I Live Now," a Magnolia Pictures release.
Tom Holland, Saoirse Ronan George MacKay and Harley Bird… (Courtesy of Magnolia…)

The cold war is over, and yet there are way more apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic movies being made now than during the fearful '50s. In the last decade, we've had “The Road,” “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World,” “Time of the Wolf,” “2012” and innumerable action epics built around the end of the world.

“How I Live Now” shows up with a classy pedigree: director Kevin Macdonald (“The Last King of Scotland”) and writer Tony Grisoni (“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” “Queen of Hearts”) are working from a popular and celebrated young adult novel. Also on board is actress Saoirse Ronan, who was nominated for an Oscar for her first major role (“Atonement”).

Here Ronan plays Daisy, an American teen with more than her share of issues. Mom died giving birth to her; Dad has now sent her to England to visit a houseful of maternal cousins she's never met. It is hinted that he's trying to get her out of harm's way as the dark clouds of war are gathering — which makes no sense, since England appears to be Ground Zero. On the other hand, Daisy is such a screwed up, surly, wholly unlikable pill that maybe Dad knows exactly what he's doing.

Daisy's aunt has to leave the next day for government-related war work. Or because Daisy's been described to her. That leaves our little miss sunshine alone with three cousins and a dog. Being such a charmer, she has no time for any of them except Edmond (George MacKay), a brooding heartthrob roughly her age. His brooding indeed makes her heart throb, and an adolescent romance is born. (An adolescent romance between two first cousins? Ah, who are we to judge?)

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Daisy thinks of herself as a curse, bringing disaster wherever she goes. Such a notion is mere superstition, of course, so to suggest that the temporal proximity of her first sexual liaison (with her cousin) and the start of the war is anything beyond coincidence — the hand of a vengeful god, for instance — would be rude and uncalled for.

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