Set in the not-so-distant future, Kevin Macdonald's How I Live Now is the story of Daisy, an American teenager who is sent to stay with her relatives in the English countryside. Alienated and withdrawn, due in large part to her father's neglect, Daisy goes out of her way to be miserable at first, eventually warming up to her surroundings, mostly due to her budding romance with Edmund. When tense news reports begin about escalating conflict in the UK, the group finds themselves in the middle of a military state, fighting for survival. How I Live Now begins as a moody, intriguing fish out of water story that slowly morphs into a horrific nightmare as civilization around these young people begins to crumble. Turning into a story of survival, the film deals with this World War III-type scenario is refreshing, free of digital explosions and firepower, instead opting for a far more unnerving approach where violence and death feel constantly on the horizon. The narrative is compelling, and quite hard to stomach at times due to the dark circumstances, but at its heart How I Live Now is thematically solid, with a powerful anti-war message at its heart. There is no point in trying to Kevin Macdonald's direction is stylish, and is especially good when using the less is more approach but I did find the film a little too self-indulgent at times. My biggest problem with How I Live Now is centered around the love story between Daisey and Edmund. The relationship is believable but it feels rather unnecessary given how the film builds from the initial romance. There is also an over-abundance of internal dialogue from Daisy's character that feels very unneccessary and quite frankly cheap, as if Macdonald didn't have enough faith in the quieter moments to capture this complicated young girl's inner turmoil.
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