How I Live Now, the latest film from director Kevin Macdonald, is based on a 2004 novel I’ve not read, and yet I feel there’s either half a movie on the cutting room floor or the original text has been radically altered at the director’s whim. The film’s poster, with world-class absence of imagination, proclaims that “love will lead you home,” but its failure to come up with something commendably original sounding is nowhere near as offensive as its total mis-sale of the film.
People are going to go and see How I Live Now, as I did, expecting a story in which love is given a chance to conquer all in the face of a couple’s separation during the outbreak of nuclear war, and what they’ll instead find is a fairly biting satire on the state of teenage love stories in the wake of Twilight that its target audience is as unlikely to appreciate as it is to recognize in the first place.
Ronan’s character Daisy is a socially challenged teenage fish out of water, visiting her English cousins for the summer because her dad obviously doesn’t want her hanging around. Enter Eddie, brooding, handsome and romantic focus of the surrogate family she quickly adopts. Sound familiar? It bloody well should!
How I Live Now treads a curious line between finger-flicking parody and earnest drama, presenting its cyphers honestly in the early going and getting progressively less obvious to the extent that by its end, it has traveled from one end to the other of the satirical spectrum, covering more ground more eloquently than you’d expect from a stock sophomoric comedy sendup.
Said eloquence of deconstruction works against the film though, because its middle third is laudably solid, save for the occasional lapse into melodrama, and like we mentioned in our own review, it’s all over the place tonally. At times it’s hard to know whether you’re expected to empathize with these characters or snigger into your popcorn. At one point, Eddie whispers to a field of cows who promptly vacate so that frail American Daisy, wilting flower that she is, can pass on through. He also keeps a bird, on occasion heading to the majesty of the English hillside to let it fly free inviting all manners of symbolic readings and such baloney. Though he’s good with his hands and animals and at being handsome and a good brother/father figure, he’s also quiet and stare-y and hard to get a read on. He is, regrettably, a total caricature.