Review: How I Live Now
Teenage Elizabeth is sent from the U.S. to the English countryside to live with relatives she has yet to meet and has no interest in. Forced to drastically change her custom of living, Daisy must also deal with global concerns, as Europe teeters precariously on the brink of World War III.
The always wonderful and impressive Saoirse Ronan is Daisy (with an American accent, of course), while the very handsome and rather prolific George McKay is a strapping young man who takes a liking to Daisy.
‘Do it with a Rock Star,’ an energetic punk song by the incomparable Amanda Palmer, is cranked on the headphones of Daisy when we first meet her. That, paired with a steady glare and uncanny ability to be easily aggravated lets you know that she is not thrilled with, well, really anything at all in a life that isn’t really all that bad.
Daisy, whose real name is Elizabeth but apparently isn’t as cool or hip as ‘Daisy,’ is arriving in England to stay with extended family having been sent away from her father in America. We’re not exactly sure what life was like for her in the States, but by the way she initially is repulsed by a beautiful countryside and fresh air, we can only assume it involved a lot of texting and hanging around at Starbucks.
Her utterly boring pouty attitude is instantly recognizable as standard teenage angst. She is greeted on an idyllic pastoral home, complete with an aquatic escape, and the group of youngsters includes a tall strong man named Edmond, the kind of quiet brooding type.
Daisy pouts evermore.
Well, almost. She predictably changes heart, but just as her steely exterior warms, European geopolitical tensions turns to action as war breaks out across England. The kids are forced to leave their comforts – the ones Daisy so conveniently just grew accustom to, they are separated, and life is thrown in ruin.
The journey that follows in the shadow of war is far more interesting symbolically as it is somewhat absurd literally. When chaos erupts, the film takes on a different tone entirely, stumbling from one tone and story to the next. The boys are separated from the girls, as the former are given arms and the later a house in which to live.
It’s now where Daisy wants to be, as she and her younger cousin try and escape, meet the boys, and make their way back home.
There are simply too many themes pushing and pulling for one to be particularly potent. Ronan does her best with a feeble script, but adult responsibility does not mesh with teenage romance. It’s not enough, as a predictable film that is at times eerily quiet and beautifully scenic lacks anything but sights and sounds.
Should You See It?
Both Ronan and McKay are charming, but instead of seeing one solid film, you’re watching two or three fractured and disparate stories meant to be something more.