Review: How I Live Now (counter-argument)






How I Live Now is an overly melodramatic film with not enough redeeming features to bring it back from the brink.


Every sports team has a weak link – you notice it immediately; one player just isn’t gelling with the rest of the team. Now, imagine that this sole weak link takes up around two thirds of the team: then you can begin to perceive the problem with How I Live Now.

The film begins well enough. A flurry of voices overlay each other while the screen remains black for nearly a minute until it bursts into life, blasting out Amanda Palmer’s Do It With a Rockstar over a choppily edited montage of Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) making her way through an airportIt looks and sounds fantastic, but this well crafted sequence abruptly ends when a bespectacled kid takes her luggage and drives her into the countryside, where the film struggles to find its feet.

 The world appears to be ready to go into nuclear war, but Daisy’s attentions lie elsewhere, namely on her buff Macklemore-look-alike cousin, Edmond (George MacKay). For reasons never explained other than – actually, they never are – Ronan’s otherwise indifferent character is besotted by Eddie, and this all comes to a fore with (sigh) the cow-whispering scene.

Daisy is reluctant to cross a field because of the cows that occupy it, as her ultra-clean Manhattan nature means she cannot face the realities of the countryside. So Eddie goes up to the cows, strokes them, whispers to them… and they all just clear off.  The entire cinema laughed. Hard. I suspect the filmmakers intended this to be quite a tender scene but it is handled so ineptly that from this point forward, the film loses its audience.

The love story (BETWEEN COUSINS) is really cheap, and clearly tailored for a different audience to the rest of the film. The inevitable sex scene is clunky and the acting is stilted, even from the usually outstanding Ronan.  There is a dream sequence in which Daisy pictures Edmond glowing orange amid a sea of mist. Again, the cinema laughed. How are we meant to take this seriously?

So it doesn’t matter that the depiction of the war is actually quite intriguing. Nor does it matter that there is a fantastically edited montage of the children living and working during the war. The cinematography is often beautiful, but it is overshadowed by the feeble melodrama. If such a major part of the story, and clearly the area the director wishes us to focus on, is so poor, it drags down the rest of the film beyond any point of redemption.

I wanted to like this film, but then, I’m not tailored for cow-whispering.