How I Live Now

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(2013) ★★

Film4: PREMIERE Tuesday 8 December, 9pm

Saoirse Ronan as grumpy New York teenager Daisy, sent to spend the summer with cousins in the English countryside. She arrives with a stud in her nose, turned up dismissively at the sound of Fairport Convention’s Tam Lin. And a frozen chip on her shoulder, thawed somewhat when she spies the eldest, George MacKay, a gangly and uncommunicative cow-whisperer.

The other two – cheerful Tom Holland and sweet little Harley Bird – flutter around their American cousin like butterflies as these neglected children – self-sufficient in everything except washing the dishes – spend a sun-dappled summer unsupervised. A barnyard bunch with no parental guidance. Until World War III breaks out. So unfair.

England’s green and pleasant land is covered in a blanket of ashes after a nuclear attack on London. And their bucolic bubble is further burst by the arrival of troops enforcing evacuation. Separating the dewy-eyed young lovers. The Road strode with purpose, but this love-conquers-all cross-country trek’s a slog. A virtually standstill beside Australia’s undervalued ‘young adult’ drama, Tomorrow When the War Began.

This is a roseate Nicholas Sparks-like picture with rougher language and smoother direction, although the accomplished Kevin Macdonald (Touching the Void, Last King of Scotland, State of Play) seems an ill-fit for such trite material. What this moody-broody story could use is less listless indie tempo and a lot more of something like 10cc’s Clockwork Creep.

The grim spectre of Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later is briefly glimpsed, only to be dashed by moony musings. Ultimately, How I Live Now fully earns its solipsistic title. Saoirse shoulders the entire show, which is easier to type than to say.

Certificate: 15

Duration: 97min

IMDB – How I Live Now

TMDB – How I Live Now

Rotten Tomatoes – How I Live Now