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HOW I LIVE NOW

Wartime Mysteries
How I Live Now depicts its wartime with frightening realism, and yet, seen through the eyes of its largely oblivious teenage protagonists, leaves a shroud of mystery around what's actually happening. The unknown enemy that manages to seize control of the nation remains a shadowy force. "The world that Meg created is very much about ambiguity and we wanted to leave it in that world," says Macdonald. "I'm sure that some people will ask, 'Who are the enemy? What's going on?' But I believe it's the right decision to keep it as vague as possible because, in a way, it's all a metaphor. It's not a political film, it's not a film about the situation in the world, it's the story of an unhappy teenage girl falling in love."

"I don't think it's necessarily important for the audience to know everything that Eddie's been through," says MacKay, agreeing with his director. "What's important is that the film is about healing damaged people and Eddie heals Daisy through their love. Sex and true love are new discoveries that come with being with each other and at the end of the film; Daisy is on the path to healing him."

Macdonald wanted to steep the film in the English romantic tradition, which is why songs by melodic folk-rockers Fairport Convention and English singer-songwriter Nick Drake feature on the soundtrack. "It's about the beauty of the landscape and the threat of the landscape at the same time," he notes, "and I want to reflect this magical, melancholic version of England in the music."

More than any film Macdonald has made, How I Live Now rests on a single character's journey. Daisy goes on a staggering arc during the narrative, conveyed by Ronan with extraordinary conviction; the novel's numerous fans will be thrilled to witness her performance. "I know teenage girls who got so excited when they heard I was making this movie," says the actress. "Having a leading young woman like Daisy who's very messed up and unsure of herself and insecure, I know as a teenager they're the kind of characters I relate to more because they're not perfect and they're not glorified. Pretty much every teenage girl goes through at least some of what Daisy experiences."

"What I find interesting about Saoirse's performance is that she's not always sympathetic in the film and she did sometimes find that difficult because she is, by nature, such a lovely person," muses Macdonald. "But that makes it a particularly strong performance because it's Saoirse as you've never seen her before. She's tough, ballsy and the most grown-up we've seen her be. In this film, we watch her becoming a grown-up in front of our eyes and that's exciting. After this film, you'll see people start casting her as a leading lady."

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