How I Live Now movie poster
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How I Live Now
How I Live Now movie poster

How I Live Now Movie Review

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World War III hits Great Britain and a teenage girl and her cousins are forced to fend for themselves in the aftermath in How I Live Now, a mildly entertaining but ultimately forgettable drama-thriller based on a novel that may or may not be young adult fiction.

Saoirse Ronan plays Daisy, a rather uptight and somewhat unlikable girl who naturally serves as the lead character. She improves over time, but Daisy isn't going to go down as the Oscar-nominated actress's most interesting characters. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast isn't given much to do either, each forced into rather minimal roles and cutout characters.

Not a whole lot happens in How I Live Now, either, despite a setting where the UK has been plunged into chaos. Well, stuff happens, but how much of is it interesting? There's a subplot about Daisy's romantic relationship with her cousin Eddie (George MacKay), but it is pure young adult drivel and the storyline is left incomplete. Daisy and one of her female cousins attempt to return home and encounter some undesirable situations along the way, but nothing that hasn't been seen and done better in other movies. The movie largely lacks a climax.

Nonetheless, How I Live Now flows well and is never boring. The movie feels like a cut above other young adult fare, at least from an execution viewpoint. Kevin Macdonald's direction is sound and he makes the most of what is presumably a low budget, capturing the essence of a nation at war with minimal effects and action.

Unfortunately, the source material, written by Meg Rosoff, just doesn't have enough meat on the bone (assuming the movie holds true to the novel) to warrant a live-action production. The setup is sound, but nothing new - the short-lived television show "Jericho" played off the same war-is-here-but-no-one-knows-what-is-happening scenario, among countless others - and many of the specifics feel unfinished.

How I Live Now is not a poorly made movie, but lacks any kind of compelling story and characters. The movie feels like the first chapter in something bigger, but it isn't part of something bigger. That's a problem, and one that How I Live Now cannot overcome.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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