on 22 October 2013
This movie is about two teenage lovers torn apart by a third world war and determined to be reunited. It goes from the comical to the lyrical to the romantic to the threatening to the frightening to the grisly and never lost my attention for a moment. That's quite an achievement given that I'm a grumpy old man who soon gets irritated if writers, actors or directors don't do their job properly.
Acerbic American teenager Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) arrives in England to stay with her cousins. There's 14-year-old Isaac, a laid-back soul who meets her at the airport and subjects her to a scary ride home in a messy old Land Rover. "Home" is a ramshackle farmhouse and her other cousins are Piper (10-year-old Harley Bird), who is more chatty and friendly than Daisy cares for, and Edmond (George MacKay) who is the eldest and doesn't say much. There's unwashed crockery and meals are a disorganised affair; mother (Anna Chancellor) spends much of her time in her study and soon jets off to Geneva on a mission apparently connected with averting an apocalypse.
Daisy, who has OCD, is neurotic about the food she eats and is on medication to quell voices in her head, finds this environment somewhat challenging. She reacts by sulking in her room until the warmth of her cousins draws her out. It then becomes reminiscent of the Famous Five (Daisy has more than a passing resemblance to George) with swimming in the river, picnics and so on. But Daisy and Edmond aren't children and the hormones start to flow.
If the Famous Five were the optimistic face of the fifties, the threat of nuclear annihilation was its darker face. Contrary to many people's expectations it didn't materialise then but in this story, set in the near future, a nuclear bomb is detonated in London; there has already been some kind of bomb in Paris. It's all to do with unspecified terrorists. Sorry, war enthusiasts; if you want that kind of detail you've come to the wrong film.
Martial law is declared as Daisy's and Edmond's love is flowering so who can blame them for getting into bed together? The sex scene isn't as explicit as you may have been led to believe; more heart-warming than erotic or voyeuristic.
Their post-coital slumbers are interrupted by soldiers bursting in, guns blazing, to cart the boys and girls off to separate camps. Like many teenagers caught up by war before them, Daisy and Edmond vow to return home to each other.
The movie concentrates on Daisy's and Piper's experience in the work camp and subsequent escape. They see death - and not just of strangers - and anarchy which puts vulnerable females in danger. Hungry, thirsty and exhausted, Piper is a child trying to do her best to keep going, with Daisy pushing her to the limits and getting shirty with her in the process.
It was to be expected that Ronan would give a good performance - her best yet, I reckon - but Bird certainly didn't look out of place in such distinguished company. And thank goodness that director Kevin Macdonald concentrates on telling the story in a way which keeps the audience engaged; many a good film is spoiled by directors who forget that no matter how good the material or the actors, you'll send the punters to sleep if you don't give them enough variation of pace and tone. The film in which Ronan had her last outing , Byzantium, was an example of this.
Let's hope that after that and the cinematic disaster which was The Host, this nuclear disaster opens a new chapter in Ronan's career. She deserves it.
SPOILER I can think of other actresses performing with their fathers in films - Henry and Jane Fonda, John and Hayley Mills - but is there another example of an actress killing her father in a film?
on 3 April 2014
Once again I have to be entirely honest here and say I did initially buy this film JUST to see Saoirse Ronan. Like Chloe Moretz, she is an amazing actress and both are certainly the future of Hollywood. I am a HUGE fan of hers and was immediately interested in this film.
I had no expectations for this film. The trailer looked great and Saoirse was in it. Oh, and the bluray was a great price!! So when I watched it, I went in entirely open to whatever I was about to see. And I was so impressed. I don't know what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn't this. There's so much of Daisy in myself it is unreal, and I can really identify with her as a character. Seeing the relationship between her and her cousins blossom, and Daisy herself letting her guard down is beautiful, it's so well done and not forced or over directed in any way. In some ways it's almost poetic that the kids, teens, young adult group fend so well for themselves without adults. They're intelligent, resourceful yet still adolescent.
You're quite in the dark about the state of the world and the very idea of World War Three (if that's what it is,) as an event until the awful separation. When Eddie and Daisy were so much in love at this point and them, Isaac, Edmund and Piper were so together as a unit, I was heartbroken, especially when you had this horrible idea about what the fate of the boys could be. Piper and Daisy are evacuated and kept together, foraging for fresh fruit and vegetables during the day. Only here did you get to see the world for what it had become, and it's a shocking fear of what could come to this world, if WW3 really were to happen. The water tablets is a great idea, I commend Meg Rosoff for inventing or using that. The violence is truly seen as Piper and Daisy head back to the countryside house, which includes a mass grave and the witnessing of a gang rape. The discovery at the mass grave will truly get you.
It's almost bizarre that a teenager and child set off hand in hand across a war-stricken Britain to reunite themselves as a family and unit. As mentioned, they see, experience and encounter so much that only makes them stronger. The determination of Daisy and innocence of Piper make them a brilliant combination.
The representation of how deep the bond between Eddie and Daisy is is truly amazing, and Daisy has a way of almost feeling or knowing that Eddie isn't safe. It's not psychic as such, the film doesn't dabbled with what some might call 'the impossible.' The bond is strong and she responds, especially at the end of the film.
Considering the small size and ages of the main cast members, everyone holds their place on screen. Saoirse could have a broom as her co star and make it work, quite frankly. Want proof? Watch The Lovely Bones. That must have been done almost entirely in greenscreen (her parts anyway,) and how glorious is she in that? By the end of this film, all my lights were off, and I was sat on my bed, tears in my eyes and hands clasped at my chin. Such a brilliantly acted, directed and book-to-screen film. Do not miss this, if you're not sure, buy it, you will not regret it.
on 10 November 2013
"How I Live Now" (2013 release; 101 min.) is the film adaptation of the young adult novel of the same name written by Meg Rosoff. As the movie opens, we get to know a high school teenager named Elizabeth "but everyone calls me Daisy except my dad who's a [jerk]". (We later learn that Daisy's mom died while giving birth to Daisy, that her dad eventually remarried, and that Daisy hates both of them.) Daisy just landed in London where she is picked up by one of her cousins, and the plan is for Daisy to spend the summer with her 3 cousins and their mom in the English countryside far away from London. As it happens we hardly see their mom as she is always busy working at home or on business travel, and indeed soon the mom takes off for meetings in Geneva, thinking that someone she knows will watch over the kids. It takes a while for Daisy to adjust to her surroundings. In the meantime we also learn from TV coverage that there are significant incidents of fighting in Paris, and later in London where a nuclear device is set off, killing thousands. Mom's friend never shows up and the kids are left to fend for themselves. To tell you more of this plot-heavy movie would surely ruin your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Several comments: first, this is actually two films in one. The first part of the film brings an idyllic view of how Daisy and her 3 British cousins are spending the summer far away from London and every other trouble spot, and in fact that part reminded me of "The Kings of Summer", another recent coming-of-age film. Then the movie turns into a true adventure film as Daisy and her youngest cousin Piper get separated from Eddie and Isaac, the other 2 cousins. It is never made clear who or what the violence and the pending war is all about. Second, Irish actress Saoirse Ronan, who plays the role of Daisy, confirms once again what an amazing talent she is, keeping in mind her Oscar nominated role in Atonement, and a few years later equally outstanding in The Lovely Bones. Ronan is in every scene of the film and in virtually every frame, and really carries the film on her shoulders. Third, I did not read the novel, so I can't tell to what degree (if at all) the film differs plot-wise from the novel, but there are certain moments that you must accept certain plot points, however unlikely they seem, because in the end this is a science fiction film, albeit one in a young adult setting, but still science fiction. Last but no least: there is a great selection of songs throughout the movie, mostly newer, indie music, but also an oldie from Fairport Convention, causing Daisy to comment "what the hell is that?", ha! Bottom line: I enjoyed this better than I had expected going into it.
This film showed up without any pre-release fanfare or advertising on a single screen for all of Southwest Ohio (Greater Cincinnati/Dayton). The screening I saw this at today was not attended particularly well, even if it was a matinee show. That does not bode well for the commercial prospects of the film in theatres, which is a shame, as I think this could find an audience with the proper advertising and awareness campaign. "How I Live Now" is worth checking out, be it in theatres or on DVD/Blu-ray.
on 17 November 2013
Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) "don't call me Elizabeth" has Daddy issues and comes to vacation in the country side of England with relatives she has never met. She takes meds for the voices in her head and is a disagreeable individual who hates everything about the country except for a young man named Eddie (George MacKay) a cow whisperer. Europe is in turmoil, events we know little about. When a nuclear device is exploded in London, fallout comes to the farm (literally and figuratively) as Daisy opts to refuse passage to safety to stay in her newly acquired comfort zone.
The film centers around Daisy and the choices she makes for her new family, going from a self centered individual, finally learning about loving a family, something she has missed since the death of her mother. "WWIII" provides the background and was more of a distraction to the film than anything else. Saoirse Ronan, a NYC girl who has also lived in Ireland was a natural for the part.
This is another series of films that were well made, but I didn't find having an overwhelming amount of entertainment value. Even with the dropping of an atomic bomb and armies roaming the countryside, I was still in the mode of waiting for something to happen besides the growing of Daisy's character. Clearly this is an action/drama/thriller chick flick I had no business watching. Great for teen girls.
Parental Guide: F-bomb. Sex. Off screen rape. No nudity. 3 1/2 stars
on 22 June 2015
I have watched this film again and again and will probably see it more times.
I saw it first with no sound on a train while I was travelling between Toledo and Granada and probably because I had read the book I knew what the film was immediately.
It does differ slightly from the book, which I also loved and read several times over a 5 year period.
As a review on the book cover states: Meg Rossoff has a magical and utterly faultless voice (Mark Haddon)
It is written in the first person, with a quirky style - lots of caps and asides.
The narrator Daisy is a sardonic anorexic teen from NY city and also a posthumous child with a remarried father..
She receives a real psychological grounding on arriving in The UK to stay with her three cousins in Wales.
A real attachment develops between them all especially between Daisy and her eldest cousin Eddy, then war comes,and they are forcibly evacuated away from their rural summer idyll and separated.
Daisy then has the dual tasks of looking after her little cousin Piper and setting off across war torn England (or Wales) in an attempt to reunite with the boys.
We enter a Survivor like tale which becomes a showcase for Daisy - magnificently displayed by Saoirse Ronan - to show what resources a teenager in love can muster.
There are all the challenges you could invent and plenty of shocks.
It may fall into the new YA category but I think its deeper.
It works on many levels.
How do you react when life alters beyond recognition?
What happens to all your 'stuff'.
We see a bit of the old Daisy as the stresses of the trip tell.
Yet she is unfaltering, driven and powerful.
Lots of wonderful country scenery, animals, and the blind numbing presence of 'authority'
This film is a true precurser to the current vogue of Divergent/Insurgent and the Hunger games.
And the emotional content is pretty full on.
For a first novel - a lot to be proud of.
And for a film adaptation - tasteful, restrained and beautifully cast.
In my view destined to be a Classic.
on 16 May 2016
I bought this film on the strength of Saoirse Ronan, but I was disappointed: even her talent couldn't lift this film above mediocrity. I haven't read the book the film was based on, so I had no preconceptions or even backstory to fill in the many gaps. I didn't like the choppy opening, and for a long time I wondered if anything was going to happen, but when the war begins, I had higher hopes that there was going to be some comment - or at least relevance - for the current situation in war-torm countries. How would we react if British people were the ones running from bombs? But nothing ever happened. The children are abandoned by the adults who are supposed to protect them, girls separated from the boys, and the girls go on a journey to get back to where they started. End of story. There's no explanation of why the UK was attacked or how it's resolved. Daisy hears voices and takes pills, presumably she has schizophrenia or something, but that's never explained, and it's never relevant to the story - eg what happens to her when she runs out of medication? Overall, I thought the story was disappointing - merely a chance to show off some teenage sex and gratuitous violence. I really didn't care what happened to any of them.
This is a really good, dark, coming of age drama set against the backdrop of an apparent worldwide war.
Saoirse Ronan plays Daisy, an American teen packed off to the English countryside to stay with her aunt and cousins. The film appears to be following the well worn path of the misfit attempting to fit into her new surroundings - friendship, romance, life lessons etc etc. These themes continue as unfortunately a nuclear war kicks off - the aunt (who appears to have some kind of high ranking job) is called away, a nuclear bomb is dropped on London and our band of youngsters are left to fend for themselves.
To say much more would ruin the way the plot twists but suffice to say it's gripping but dark stuff. The war itself is largely a macguffin, it's going on in the background as we follow the young troop attempting to stay safe/alive.
The acting is universally excellent. Ronan is the headline act but there are no missteps which is impressive from the young cast. The direction from Kevin Macdonald is at times elegant and dreamlike and others gritty and realistic, suiting the way story progresses. Overall, a top effort and certainly worthy of your time.
on 21 April 2014
Great film, probably one of the best films I have seen so far this year. Great acting again by Saoirse Ronan as Daisy (loved all the films she’s been in, a real star of the future). But the rest of the cast were excellent. I fully recommend watching, it is gripping from the first moment to the last. My only gripe is the lack of detail about the war, but I guess the films not really about that.
on 29 June 2014
This film starts promisingly enough (if you can bear the frantic editing) - bitching American mall-rat Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) is sent against her will to live with her whacky bucolic cousins in the depths of a golden English countryside. She at first is distant and disdainful of their friendly entreaties to join in the fun, but falling for brooding, enigmatic Eddie, she begins to show signs of going native. But clearly, bad things are happening out there in the wider world, with the threat of war implied by the heavy military presence everywhere, and ominous hints on the TV news.
Just when things are beginning to look up for Daisy and Co, along comes a nuclear conflict to put the damper on their Famous Five romps. This is actually done quite well - the animals scamper off in panic, the trees blow in the wind, and there is a distant crack-thump of detonation (and, implausibly, the ash of the fallout begins immediately, which is a bit daft but never mind).
Here things start to go downhill in my opinion. So London has been destroyed by a nuclear bomb (and possibly Bristol, too), with hundreds of thousands dead, and the likelihood of a nuclear winter, radiation sickness, famine and death. But the gang carry on as if nothing much has happened ! They're still skipping round camp fires, playing with the dogs, Daisy and Eddie are bonking in the barn (Hang on - aren't they cousins ?), all to the backdrop of blue skies and contended, browsing livestock. Well, this did it for me. Where were the traumatized, irradiated survivors, stumbling around in the gloom, stockpiling roots and berries, or trying to eat each other, as we've been lead to believe by films such as Threads and The Road ? Quite frankly, if this is a post-nuclear conflict scenario, then we spent all the Cold War worrying ourselves sick over nothing.
So, unfortunately, this had me set against entire rest of the film, ready to pick holes in everything, which was a shame, because most of it was quite good. The boys and girls are forcibly removed from the house, and separated, by the military who are now in charge of things (and I am positive that British soldiers would not treat civilians in such a coarse and brutal manner as depicted, which was another moan), and put to work in camps to help with rebuilding an economy. Thereafter, the film follows Daisy and one of the younger children as she escapes and makes her long and painful way back to the house - via a still very green and pleasant landscape - in order to be re-united with her beloved Eddie.
It had its moments; for a low-ish budget film it was visually impressive, but the various implausibilities let it down for me.
on 15 October 2014
Enjoyable watch. Saoirse Ronan, if she keeps grounded, has the potential to be the best actress around. The film roles along nicely without being too Hollywood. A good watch and worthwhile.