How I Live Now
Three Stars (out of five)
2013. Released by Magnolia Home Entertainment. Running time 101 minutes. Rated R. Has cursing, a sex scene, and violence. Has closed captions. DVD has a behind the scenes featurette, and deleted scenes. This was reviewed on DVD on March 16, 2014

Let's see, my passport, driver's licence...wow, who knew going native would be this tiring! Thanks to Red Dawn, both the 1984 camp classic and the dopey remake, we have on our hands a sub-genre of "teens repelling invaders" films. A recent addition to this genre was the flat out silly Tomorrow, When The War Began, which was based on a popular series of books detailing how Australian teens fought off unnamed invaders. 2013 saw the release of another film that deals with the same basic story, but in a far more grittier way: How I Live Now. Based on the Young Adult book by Meg Rosoff, HILN stars Saoirse Ronan (Hanna) as Daisy, a teenage American girl who is sent to England to spend the summer with her cousins.

Oh yeah, he's real cute...when can we eat him? At first she rebels against the idea, acting very bratty towards her cousins, who’re happy to see her, especially little Piper (the superb Harley Bird), who’s glad to see another girl in a house filled with boys. The boys are Piper’s older brothers Isaac (Tom Holland) and Eddie (George MacKay). Daisy warms up to Isaac after he pushes her in a stream (a strange turn-on, if you ask me) and then all hell breaks loose. England comes under attack by…uh, somebody. London is blasted into radioactive ash by unnamed terrorists, who then proceed to take over the country, bit by bit, from the British Army.

No it's ok, I got this. Just put your magic wand away. Much like Tomorrow, When The War Began, How I Live Now goes out of its way to not identify the bad guys--only going so far as to call them terrorists, which raises a lot of questions that never get answered. But the film is told from the self-absorbed POV of Daisy as she struggles to survive in an England that’s thrown into chaos during a full-scale war (at least HILN is smart enough to not have Daisy take up arms against the invaders). Ronan is an accomplished young actress whose mere presence can uplift an imperfect movie (like The Host), and that’s basically what she does here. How I Live Now, while not perfect, has still given her a very meaty role to chew on, and Ronan just effortlessly owns it.

Hmmm, you're right, human meat is quite tasty! She’s fantastic as Daisy, who goes through an emotional character arc from being a very flighty and haughty girl, to a mature and sensible young woman who puts the wellbeing of others before herself. The film’s lush and gorgeous cinematography is in sharp contrast to its brutal and unflinching look at the effects of war. If only the uneven script was a little better. For one thing, Daisy’s bonking her cousin (ick!), and despite how gritty the film tries to be, it still ignores such real life dangers as the radioactive effects of an atomic bomb in favor of its weird love story. If you don’t mind an offbeat fantasy about kissing cousins (ick!) then give this a shot. As for me, I’m gonna re-watch the original Red Dawn. WOLVERINES! --SF

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