The Movie Date: How I Live Now

The Movie Date buttonThe Movie Date is a weekly feature where we discuss movies that may appeal to YA readers. Andrew is The Reading Date’s resident movie critic and this week he discusses How I Live Now, directed by Kevin MacDonald, based on the novel by Meg Rosoff.

how i live now movie poster

When a tough American teenager goes to live with cousins in the British countryside, a nearby nuclear attack forces them out of their farmhouse and on a quest to survive.

At the film’s start young Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) is very much the city mouse visiting her country-mouse relatives; with her shiny headphones and bright urban clothes, it seems unlikely she’ll ever fit into the peaceful rural routine. Rather than accepting their invitations to play, she’d rather stay home and give herself a pep talk full of self-loathing. Adding to the oddness of the situation is the apparent lack of any adults on the farm, leaving the kids to fend for themselves. Soon Daisy’s aunt does show up; she’s some sort of political strategist, overwhelmed with what seems to be a global political crisis. But in no time she’s off to nearby London to catch a plane to Geneva, and we don’t know if she ever gets there.

Saoirse Ronan in HOW I LIVE NOW
Saoirse Ronan in HOW I LIVE NOW, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

Because that afternoon there’s a distant flash, a rumble, and a rain of ashes; from the TV the kids learn that a nuclear device triggered in London has killed thousands. Though the blast doesn’t affect Daisy or her cousins directly, they sense their lives will change, and to avoid being captured and evicted (due to fallout), the kids hide out in the barn. The ensuing closeness causes Daisy to become enamored of her handsome older cousin Edmond, and the two become attached. But British troops find the family anyway, dragging them off to camps for their own protection as terrorist forces prowl the countryside. Before Edmond and his brother are taken to one camp and Daisy and her young cousin Piper to another, they hastily agree to meet back at the farmhouse as soon as possible.

Saoirse Ronan and George MacKay
Saoirse Ronan and George MacKay in HOW I LIVE NOW, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

After a brief spell at a work camp, the two girls are forced to make their way back home through the hostile countryside. On the way she keeps having strange dreams showing Edmond in deep distress. For both to survive, Daisy must summon reserves of courage and compassion she didn’t know she had. Good thing those rather brutal pep talks have built up her inner strength so well.

Saoirse Ronan and Harley Bird
Saoirse Ronan and Harley Bird in HOW I LIVE NOW, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

I’m always a fan of films that show epic events through the eyes of people who barely glimpse them (for instance, the virtually unseen alien invasion in Shyamalan’s Signs). Here we only see and understand as much as Daisy does; we don’t really comprehend the reasons for the global crisis and don’t see what’s happened in London or anywhere else. All we know is that the family’s farmhouse is a good place, and nothing can be right until everyone meets up there again. So the focus isn’t on the global crisis, it’s on Daisy’s coming of age, in a setting in which no one should ever have to come of age.

Saoirse Ronan’s a wonderful young actress fond of playing girls on the run; she also played a refugee in 2010’s The Way Back, and in the next year’s Hanna she was a fugitive teen assassin who refused to be captured. Here she gets a more mature character arc as she finds herself becoming a de-facto mom and a woman in love as well as a fleeing survivor. Director Kevin Macdonald has directed both political dramas and documentaries, and his gritty style is excellent for the material. As both an effective dystopian thriller and sensitive coming-of-age picture, this is likely to please both parties as a date night film, especially viewed on demand. It’s a quality, very marketable film and I’m surprised it didn’t get a bigger release. But I guess digital distribution is how we live now.

How I Live Now may be hard to find in theaters, but you can watch it On Demand like we did, or rent it from iTunes. How I Live Now is rated R and runs 101 min.

Andrew sig


4 thoughts on “The Movie Date: How I Live Now

  1. readaholic31 says:

    I saw this one advertised when it came out but never got a chance to go see it which was disappointing. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for the dvd.

  2. BermudaOnion says:

    It’s funny how some movies are not widely distributed. I don’t think this one ever made it here.

    1. wordsforthepictures says:

      You may be able to find it “on demand” from your cable provider. That’s how Lucy and I were able to see it.

  3. […] is the first book I’ve read by Meg Rosoff, though I recently saw the movie version of her book How I Live Now. Rosoff has a wonderful way with words, and doesn’t talk down to her readers. Her Mila is […]

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