Review by Ed Blackadder
Lead Entertainment Writer
The Story of Survival and Love…
Based on the award-winning novel by Meg Rosoff, How I Live Now, sees an American girl, Daisy (Saoirse Ronan), who’s sent to spend the summer with her cousins in England. Daisy didn’t want to go, but her cousins are excited at having their American relative stay with them. She, on the other hand, only wants to stay locked in her room and tune into her sounds. The cousins try their best to make her feel welcome, and when she does begin to interact, by going swimming in a nearby stream, all hell breaks loose after a huge bomb is dropped in the distance, marking the beginning of a civil war. The group try to lock themselves away in the house, but soldiers turn up and separate the boys from the girls, then send them to a work camp. Daisy takes on the responsibility of getting them all back together by breaking out of the camp and going on a dangerous journey to reunite her cousins.
I’ve been a fan of Oscar-nominated Saoirse Ronan, since seeing her in the brilliant Hanna, where she took on the role of a young, highly trained, genetically enhanced killer, and have since caught everything she’s done. Ronin has already proven she has what it takes to be a future Academy Award-winner, even when taking on roles that don’t really allow her to best demonstrate her acting chops, like the nice, but vacuus The Host. More recently was a film more telling of what the highly talented actress is capable of, the stylishly cool Byzantium, where she played a vampire who was fed up with the life of drinking blood. I also recently caught the off-beat Violet & Daisy, where Saoirse’s character was also named Daisy.
Ronin’s character starts off as a sullen, confused teen hearing voices, then falls in love with the good-looking, outdoorsy, stoic Edmond (George MacKay), and is then forced to become resourceful survivor, which reminded me of her Hanna character, which she actually suited well. Ronin’s performance was expectedly good and a lot of How I Live Now hinged upon Oscar-winner Kevin Macdonald’s casting of the lead. Individually, each of the young cast did an admirable job, and all got a chance to showcase their talents.
Tom Holland (The Impossible) played Isaac, who was Daisy’s younger cousin, and was always trying to make her feel welcome. George MacKay (Peter Pan), was Edmond, the older cousin, but a bit less sociable, and her eventual love-focus. Playing the youngest of the trio, Piper, was Harley Bird (Peppa Pig). I enjoyed all the performances from the cast and found them all convincing, especially when the pace quickened and called for more dramatic scenes. The story itself was reasonably credible, but I’m not so sure a lesser director could have sold it as well as fellow Glaswegian Macdonald did. If not for the strength of direction and performances, it would have been ultimately a far weaker tale.
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