Thursday, 23 April 2015

How I Live Now

Lowdown: An American teenager visiting the UK finds herself in the middle of a war.
To put it mildly, I am no fan of the movie genre that pits youths in distressing to apocalyptic grade scenarios while eliminating adult support or putting the adults in the role of the villain. It’s not the idea itself that’s bad, it’s the execution: both Tomorrow, When the War Began and Hunger Games proved sub mediocre. 2013’s How I Live Now is another contribution to the genre.
Coming from the UK (at least as far as setting is concerned), How I Live Now pushes the stress knob to a higher levels than the above mentioned predecessors. I will argue a lot of the stuff it depicts is unsuitable to its target audience; not because they've never seen violence before, but because of the emotional impact it comes bundled with in this movie.
Elizabeth (Saoirse Ronan) – call me Daisy! – is an American teen coming to visit the UK with a bag full of personal issues the movie never delves into. She receives the same reception anyone visiting the UK today enjoys: deep pocket security checks, cameras everywhere, the works (the movie makes those look worse than normal; I’d beg to differ). Her reception continues along the lines I grew used to when visiting country UK (read: not London): inadequate roads and a messy house that seems to be ruled by its canine residents. Welcome to modern day UK!
With the adult of the house mostly away, Daisy mingles with its kids/teens. There’s understandable friction at first, given the different backgrounds, but quickly things become friendly; even romantically friendly. And then a strange war, about which we do not know much (World War 3? A limited affair affecting the UK and not much else?), breaks loose. Daisy and her new “family” are affected, having to fend for themselves in what all of a sudden turns out to be a very hostile environment. Think Kosovo.
The result is a sort of a vastly more serious version of Tomorrow When the War Begun. Like its predecessors, this version is based on a YA novel; like its predecessors, there is a lot about the background setting we do not know about; and like its predecessors, adults don’t play much of a role here; it's all about the kids rising up to the occasion and the adults that are there failing.
I therefore guess that if you liked the predecessors, there’s a very good chance you would like How I Live Now. I did not and I do not; the lack of a background made it hard for me to feel for the characters, and the whole initial “teenager feeling the pain of teenage years” sort of angst overtook me right at the beginning.
Overall: Clearly a YA only affair yet potentially quite overwhelming to its target audience. Personally, I found How I Live Now to be worth 2 out of 5 uninvolving crabs.

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