Friday, November 15, 2013
How I Live Now
In sometimes in the future, germ-phobic and agitated 15-year-old Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) travels from New York to a country house outside of London to spend the summer with her three cousins. Her cheerful 14-year-old cousin Isaac (Tom Holland) picks her up from the airport and brings her to the unkept country house where the youngsters seem to be on their own and the adults are visibly missing. Nothing around seems to interest Daisy, including her talkative 6-year-old cousin Piper (Harley Bird). But when Daisy spots her third cousin—the enigmatic, quiet, handsome, blue-eyed Eddie (George MacKay)—her heart stops. It's love at first sight, although she tries to conceal her crush at the beginning.
The film shows little interest in elaborating the background story surrounding these children. Instead, with dreamy visual, the film follows them swimming in a sun kissed lake, gazes them playing in a scenic countryside pasture, and witnesses Daisy and Eddie falling in love.
But that doesn't last very long. Suddenly, World War III breaks out and martial law is declared in the Britain. Daisy and Piper are forced to evacuate into a suburban home outside of London, separated from Eddie and Isaac. The separation from Eddie makes Daisy feel unbearable more than the hard labor and harsh living condition do. One night, Daisy escapes the house with Riper and begins her dangerous quest of heading back to the country house on foot, hoping to reunite with Eddie.
Despite a sometimes ludicrous narrative, director Kevin Macdonald manages to keep us captivated from the point of view of an eccentric teenager with the help from a fine performance by Saoirse Ronan. The film doesn't make Daisy more heroic than a 15-year-old who is madly in love. The decisions she makes often seem impulsive and illogical. For example, what makes her think that the country house should be immune from the destruction of the war? Why should Eddie still be living there when the entire nation is under martial law and evacuated? It might make perfect sense in the mind of a teenager girl who is longing for her lover in a stressed environment. However, it's quite different when the film also disregards such logic and reasoning.
It's a tremendous risk for Daisy to take when she starts her dangerous journey in a forest on a ruined foreign soil with little food and water supply, tailed by an exhausted six-year-old child, and hunted by barbaric terrorists. Her source of strength is nothing more than the constant flash back of a blue-eyed, shirtless Eddie. Speaking of the power of crush.
The first half of the film is mysterious, romantic, and intriguing. But the second half is inexcusably sloppy and preposterous. You might think Daisy must have become insane when she goes through a pile of abandoned body bags at one point in the film, in spite of Daisy's germ-phobic anxiety deliberately established earlier in the film multiple times. You wonder if Daisy becomes crazy when she yells at Riper to stop whining and keep hiking if Riper wants to see her brothers again. But you are pretty sure that soon Daisy is going to show up at a local farmer's market when she grows her vegetables in a sunny garden at the end of the film, while telling us how she lives now.
World War III? No big deal. Have a heartthrob in mind to keep your spirit up, and you will be fine. Otherwise, good luck to you.