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How I Live Now - Film Review

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by Katherine Thomas (subscribe)
Having spent the last few years living abroad I now wish to rediscover my home city of Sydney to keep that 'travelling feeling' and share my findings with those that might want a bit of inspiration.
Published November 14th 2013
How I Live Now is an arresting new film by Kevin McDonald that thoroughly engages the viewer both inside the cinema and long after they have departed; leaving them pondering 'what if' scenarios as it is set in present day. Based on the novel by Meg Rosoff, the film explores themes of love, change and resilience amongst an English setting of a 21st century world war.

Who is the enemy? This question is never answered which allows the storyline to be explored without any emotional or cultural associations to the 'other side'.

Saoirse Ronan leads the cast as the protagonist; Daisy, who is uprooted from her home in America and sent to live with her English cousins in the countryside. The commencement of the film introduces the audience to an angst-ridden girl who hides her insecurities with attitude and aggression. Over time we see her slowly drop her guard and embrace the different world around her, her shield penetrated through the affection showed by her cousins, and a growing attraction to her eldest cousin Eddie.

The development of a romantic and then sexual relationship between Daisy and Eddie provided an element of discomfort throughout the film as it progressed, as they are after-all, first cousins. The transition from far-removed cousins to a sexually intimate couple is depicted quite quickly; as it must for the rest of the narrative to play out. Unfortunately as a consequence the audience does not really have much of an opportunity to see Daisy the way Eddie must see her (a vulnerable sweet young girl), which unfortunately decreases the emotional connection and understanding of the relationship between the couple to the audience.

Daisy & Eddie explore delicate first love in a contemporary wartime setting

If one can almost put the family relationship aside and focus purely on the emotions on screen; the two actors do a fantastic job depicting a young girl and boy in love. However it does lend an interesting undertone to the film & may require a bit of explanation to younger viewers.

As the children are separated by gender by soldiers the story turns to a fight for survival and a journey to be reunited whilst continuing the emotional evolution of Daisy. Many of the scenes are disturbing to watch due to the realistic portrayal and the age of those involved, with all main characters being only 17 and younger.

We see a country usually depicted only in beauty and history turn to unwelcoming and a state of disrepair. If this can happen to England it can happen anywhere. The story does not end on a happy note, it is simply resolved. As in life, some positives, some tragedies.

The realism and sensitivity that the story tends to its content that hits home to the viewer and makes this a good film. The young actors all show immense promise, particularly young Tom Holland as Isaac. Having seen his previous performance in 2011's The Impossible, I expected him to reprise a similar performance of Lucas and was extremely impressed to believe the very different personality of Isaac. It is extremely refreshing to see such good work from a child actor and his career will no doubt be long and strong. Saoirse Ronan delivers another strong performance in a lead role and is definitely one to watch as she gains traction in the industry.

How I Live Now is far from your traditional war film. Not only is it not historical which is slightly disturbing given the current sensitive political state, but the subject matter focuses on the experience of children rather than soldiers. However, the delicate subject matter and sensitive adult issues are handled most respectfully by the filmmakers and it is a strong piece of theatre and definitely worth a watch.
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*Katherine Thomas was invited as a guest
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Where: In cinemas
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