Tuesday, July 29, 2014

How I Live Now

I watched How I Live Now (2013; dir. Kevin McDonald) because it involved World War III.  The cable TV description of it as a teenage romance interrupted by the Third World War seemed sufficiently weird and perverse that it drew my interest.  Saoirse Ronan plays an American teenager sent to live with British relatives during a world crisis whose specific nature is never explained.  It involves large explosions (we infer they are nuclear, and there is fallout, but no one sickens) and invading armies.  Ronan and the family she lives with are separated from the parents, who are apparently killed in a London explosion.  The children are sent to a work camp, then they escape and try to return home.  Some of them survive and some don’t.  This is really not a very good film, and it seems casually produced, but what I assume must have been a relatively low budget means that the filmmakers largely keep the world war and the explosions off screen.  We see news clips on television before the power goes out and we see a few of the enemy soldiers but that’s all we know.  So the focus of the film falls on the struggle of the children to survive.  That they do survive at all is improbable, given the fallout and the hostile soldiers and the lack of food and water and electricity.  This film demonstrates that if you have some relatively sympathetic teenagers stumbling around in the woods and the countryside for an hour or two you can actually make a halfway interesting film.  Ronan’s character gradually evolves from a hostile teenager angry with her father for sending her abroad to a young woman determined to find the boy she loves and return to his family home in the British countryside.  But I liked her better in her creepy role in Atonement (2007) and in her revenge fantasy film Hanna (2011).

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