Watching: How I Live Now (2013)


How often is a good premise destroyed in the world of film? Lately, it seems, all too often. Piling on the mountain of teen romance films, Kevin MacDonald’s How I Live Now is a somewhat mediocre attempt in creating a romance amidst the chaos of a World War. In essence, while a variety of film aspects are generally quite good, it seems that the overall film is weighed down by a poor plot line and story telling.

To be honest, the Netflix description really intrigued me – with the unique combination of the war and a girl-meets-boy- movie tropes, I was expecting a balanced story that wouldn’t severely hinge on either for a long period of time. Unfortunately, I was flat out disappointed, and worst of all… proven wrong.

The film opens with Daisy, a compulsive American arriving in England seemingly completely oblivious to the impending threat of a World War III. She later arrives at her cousins’ house and although she is hesitant at first, befriends her family and learns to be more at ease with herself and others. This happiness is short lived though, as she is soon separated from her cousins and is forced to cope with the harsh realities of war, the responsibilities as a carer and the deep desire to reach the one she loves.

I’ve never seen the director’s previous work, nor have I read the novel the film is based of, but it seemed as though he went through a checklist of things to shoot in the film. A love scene? Check. A sex scene? Check. A confrontation scene? Check. Stock character death? Check. And even then, there are some plot details that audience members like me were left wanting more of. It can be said that the general plot is horribly watered down, sanitised and wholly unrealistic, most likely to appeal to the filmmaker’s “stereotypical”  young female audience. Luckily though, Saoirse Ronan’s (The Lovely Bones) performance, as well as the performance of her fellow cast members, give the film some good points, providing a welcome sense of relief to MacDonald’s train wreck. Other kudos come from the few scenic shots, as well as the focus on Daisy’s development from a neurotic teen to a more rounded character by the end of the film.

In short, the film definitely has more downs than up, and while that is a legitimate reason to ignore this attempt at a romance-during-war story, the acting and casting of the movie just lifts it enough to be palatable. If anything, watch this film to see the brilliant work the actors put on… or don’t, to save yourself the pain in watching a film that will leave a longing, bad taste in your mouth.

Bry Rating: 2/5
Recommended? Don’t bother.
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Language: English