Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Review: How I Live Now

World of Blackout Film Review

How I Live Now Poster

How I Live Now
Cert: 15 / 101 mins / Dir. Kevin Macdonald

There are a lot of good things to be said about Kevin Macdonald's How I Live Now, but no matter how much it kept impressing me, the film kept stumbling into what future generations will refer to as The Meyer Trap. There's a good, solid story about a girl trying to overcome serious mental health issues, holding her shit together for the sake of her new-found family while London is destroyed by a terrorist-activated nuclear device. But obviously that won't be enough for today's audiences (literary or cinematic), so let's throw in a hormonally charged love story as well, shall we? Nuclear war and the study of societal breakdown and adaptation is never interesting enough.

But y'know, love it for what it is, don't hate it for what it isn't, and I did enjoy this movie. Macdonald's masterstroke arrives straight away in the form of Saoirse Ronan, whose portrayal of Daisy is played as not quite unbearable at the beginning, and not quite loveable by the end. There's a definite arc for her her character which even her immediate co-stars don't get, and while their performances are equally earnest, it really is Ronan who puts in the leg-work. Some fairly dark themes are explored here, although the worst of these are touched on, rather than tactlessly rammed home.

The love-story aside (which I moan about, but I do accept as part of the film), we also take several segues into vocal-soundtrack territory, which is one of my many bugbears with movies marketed at the female-teen demographic. Because you can't, presumably, be expected to know if a character's sad unless they're looking out of a window while some breathy, acoustically-backed hipster sings about how sad they are. What's that? You've got soundtracks to sell? Oh.

But listen, don't let my whinging put you off (do you ever?); this is a well-made film of a slightly flawed story, and no matter how much I slapped my forehead when the characters walk calmly home through nuclear-fallout-ash, continue to drink and wash with obviously polluted water, move into a ramshackle barn with no apparent supplies other than the fruit from the rained-upon trees, and obstinately resist evacuation from armed forces, I did also let out a small whoop of delight as Daisy let off the two shots from her handgun. Yeah, I'm going to assume she'd worked out how to safely fire and reload it by that point; it was so good, I don't even mind.

How I Live Now is an engaging movie, and from what I've read of the novel's Wiki page, isn't afraid to step out from the shadow of its forebear to tell a more direct story (read: no-one's telepathic in this. Although there is a cow-whisperer. Make of that what you will). It's surprisingly American for a British film, and I mean that as a compliment. You can do a lot worse.

Is the trailer representative of the film?

Did I laugh, cry, gasp and sigh when I was supposed to?

Does it achieve what it sets out to do?

Pay at the cinema, Rent on DVD or just wait for it to be on the telly?
You won't lose too much by watching it at home.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Not really.

Will I watch it again?
I'm really not sure.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream?
I don't think there is. Which is a shame, as it could use one in a couple of places.

And because you won't be happy until I've given it a score...

And my question for YOU is…
Do you think Daisy and Edmond's deformed children will be the result of drinking and washing with radioactive water, or the fact they they're blood-relatives?

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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