Saturday, June 13, 2015

HOW I LIVE NOW (2014)



Directed By: Kevin McDonald 
Written By: Jeremy Brock, Penelope Skinner & Tony Grisoni 
Based On The Book By: Meg Rosoff 
Cinematography By: Franz Lustig 
Editor: Jinx Godfrey 


Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Tom Holland, George MacKay, Harley Bird, Danny McEvoy, Anna Chancellor, Amy Dawson


American teenager Elizabeth "Daisy" is sent by her estranged father away from New York to the countryside of England to stay with her Aunt Penn. Her distant cousin Isaac welcomes her at the airport and drives her home. She is introduced to her cousins, seventeen year-old Eddie and young Piper and to their friend Joe. However Daisy is a resentful, needy of love and aloof girl who believes that she is cursed and that bad things happen wherever she goes since her mother died in her delivery. Aunt Penn is a busy woman who is studying the war scenario in England, which is on alert due to an imminent terrorist attack, and needs to fly to Geneva. However, the next morning, a nuclear bomb explodes in London and the authorities of the United Kingdom declare a state of siege. Meanwhile Daisy and Eddie fall in love with each other, but they are separated by the military, which sends girls to one camp and men to another. Daisy and Eddie promise to meet each other again. In a country at war, Daisy and Piper flee their lodging and cross England under martial law, trying to find Eddie and Isaac.

I was much more impressed then what o thought he film was initially going to be about. It goes deeper and further then I could have ever coward and makes the film all the better for it. It doesn't seem as much as filling a trend of bringing young adult novels to the screen that feel rather thin and derivative. It also show director Kevin McDonald not slowing down in his features to explore emotions and subject matter on a grand yet intimate scale. This is not some simple pop cinema cash-in project.

Now while there is a love story In this film that sets the movie off slowly. Over time it matures and is used more as a guiding force and reason for situations and actions. Something to have faith In. A reason to survive. Along the way the film lets other love come into the picture more familal love.

I have to say the truly shocking thing of this film is how far it is willing to go. Not necessarily graphically, but subject wise and in actions. I will say it is surprisingly serious and dark. Which truly caught me off guard.

The film doesn't necessarily start off as bright and happy, but seems on it's way there with a dash of seriousness, before it plunges into reality and a heavy darkness takes over the film. As well as a bit of mystery.

Throughout the film we see glimpses of the enemy or enemies, but never really put a face to them not a name or even get to know too much about them. Which is scary as we never know an agenda only that they are dangerous and murderous.

The story includes adults, but most of the major roles or at least heavy lifting is done by a teen and child cast. That makes any danger and/or peril they might experience all the more scary and emotional. As we worry more about them.

The director, Kevin Macdonald, had originally intended the cast to be all unknown or amateur actors and was looking for an American girl, around 16 years of age to play Daisy, but cast Irish actress 19 year old Saoirse Ronan instead, after her audition, reading a scene which left them in tears.

Saoirse Ronan is excellent as usual. While her character forces herself through willpower for trivial things in the beginning. It ends up being her salvation later. Though as presented at first you think she might be a quiet schizophreniac. Raising this film to a different type of drama at first, until it decides to settle itself out and focus.

Her main co-star Harley Bird is also exceptional for how she manages to convey her deep emotions throughout this tragedy. I can only hope this role didn't leave any emotional scars. As much is asked of her and she handles it with flying colors.

I truly think the film appreciated and respects the audiences opinion and perspective by keeping s tone that allows an unpredictable nature for the film.

It seems basic, but reveals itself to be gratifying.

Though a young adult novel. I would suggest this more for teens. Due to the shocking nature of the film. Not to mention there are some scenes that will make you cry. Whether or not they were designed that way. At least the emotions hey bring up never feel manipulative. More. After of fact. Which is this films nature.

Kevin Macdonald chose to film the first half of the film with a hand held camera to give the paradise-like countryside home a sense of humanity, as though the camera was alive and breathing. The second half of the film was shot in a more steady and smoother style to make the war torn countryside more sharp and unforgiving, as though the camera was mechanical.

What director Kevin MacDonald manages to accomplish is creating a vast world. That seems like epic film-making only on a small scale for how intimate he makes the scenes and the whole film really.


Grade: B

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