Twitter Plot Summary: American Daisy joins her cousins in the UK. Then World War 3 breaks out. Kind of.
Director: Kevin Macdonald
Key Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Tom Holland, George McKay, Harley Bird, Danny McEvoy, Anna Chancellor, Corey Johnson
Five Point Summary:
1. That airport doesn’t look too unusual… except the soldiers, the barbed wire, the general state of decay…
2. You’re cousins! I mean… seriously?
3. That bomb going off… quality cinema.
4. Bleak. Rather bleak.
5. That ruddy bird…
Things are clearly not well in Britain as Elizabeth (sorry, she prefers to be called Daisy) flies into the country from the USA.The army keep the airport under vigorous guard and signs of unrest are evident wherever you look. There’s a Children of Men style vibe to the look of the film, but it fails to live up to the promise of that similarly dystopian feature.
After Daisy has settled in at her aunt’s country home and met her three cousins (the youngest of whom is the voice of Peppa Pig, fact fans), her aunt heads off to Geneva to broker a peace treaty and leaves the kids alone in the cottage under the supervision of Eddie (McKay). For a short while everything is fine – they enjoy the peace of their surroundings and Diasy starts getting close to Eddie – like, really close. Then the unthinkable happens – a nuclear bomb is detonated over London and unnamed invaders land in the country. The scene where the group hear and feel the blast is perhaps the most powerful, and it’s unremittingly bleak from that point forward. The boys and girls are separated and sent to different camps and after spending some time sifting through vegetables in a field with other “volunteers”, Daisy and young cousin Piper (Bird, the aforementioned voice of Peppa Pig) escape and make a break for home. They have a couple of encounters on that journey that are decidedly bleak, but I’ll let you discover them yourself.
In the “that’s a really silly idea” category is the completely superfluous telepathy subplot that rears its ugly head but fizzles out early on. It’d actually be a much better film without that aspect, it adds nothing and distracts from the rather serious notion of nuclear war. The only purpose it seems to serve is to give Daisy an impetus to return to their cottage – because apparently she wouldn’t have such a desire without a telepathic link to her cousin. That’s another sticking point – there’s a few morally grey decisions made, none more so than Daisy hooking up with Eddie. As the story is told from Daisy’s perspective there’s also little explanation as to what’s going on in the wider world, or what’s happening with the boys in the other camp. This does focus the story more on Daisy’s journey from uppity, snarky teen to her having a more rounded personality, but a few details here and there wouldn’t go amiss.
Whilst it fails to reach the same heights as something like Children of Men, it’s still a passable attempt at displaying a “what if” scenario. It would probably move the story out of the 12A market that they were aiming for, but it would have been nice to see more commentary on the mistreatment of British citizens by their own forces, the effects war has on children, and perhaps to have dropped a few more hints as to what actually happened. The script jumps merrily around these ideas but never takes the final plunge and actively discusses them. Children of Men was a powerful film because the script chose to discuss these themes; How I Live Now lacks power because it doesn’t.
Favourite scene: When the bomb goes off. Expertly done without telling us anything.
Quote: “No one calls me Elizabeth. Except my dad, and he’s an asshole. So if you don’t mind, my name is Daisy.”
Silly Moment: Harry Potter (I know, I know…) driving the car despite being 14 or somewhere around that age.