“How I Live Now”
I know that there are many other YA novels that are quite fantastic; actually, to my surprise, The Catcher in the Rye is a YA novel, but in recent years, we have come to expect only gooey romance stories from this publisher and many of these novels have been being adapted into movies. When I think of YA, I think of Twilight and Beautiful Creatures; the stuff that only a heart aching teenage girl could possibly enjoy, but “How I Live Now” may have just changed my mind.
“How I Live Now” is a post-apocalyptic drama about a young girl (Daisy) whose summer love is suddenly ended once World War III breaks out. The two lovers are torn apart and Daisy begins her search in order to find her way back to him. While it may seem as though it’s just another dystopian romance, but this particular movie never once forgets about the horrors of war and the terrifying situation of a world’s impending doom. “How I Live Now” is rated R, which is somewhat of a surprise with most YA adaptations being mostly for teens, but this one is surely for a much more mature audience.
“How I Live Now” always takes its subject seriously. It’s never obvious that the whole apocalypse scenario is just an excuse to create a relationship between these two lovers; actually, the writers were probably never intending to do that. For most of the movie you see the hardships and destruction that these characters have to go through, struggling to find hope in an otherwise hopeless situation. It also manages to strike a solid sense of mortality that lines the corners of this story. It uses an interesting technique to show this sense as well. The protagonist, Daisy, has these scrambled thoughts that shoot through her head at random times, giving her advice in both directions. She takes medicine for it, but once she no longer has access to that medication, she begins to learn that she must trust her instincts and at the end of the movie, she learns that all of her habits and self-proclaimed laws to rule her life, such as not eating cow cheese, are pointless and stupid. You could compare this story to the likes of The Road or any other dour, post-apocalyptic nightmare because this is a perfect example of one.
I am a huge fan of the apocalyptic drama, comedy as well. If the world is ending in a movie, I will be willing to see it. It’s not the special effects and destructive visuals that get me, I actually prefer a movie in which it hasn’t occurred yet, but I just find it so fascinating to see people’s reactions to a situation such as the end of all existence. What would a society do in these circumstances? I find it extremely intriguing to see different people’s perspectives on the matter and How I Live Now gives a legitimate opinion. Beginning with the forced evacuation of the countryside after a nuclear bomb went off in downtown London, and most likely in other areas as well, this then leads to military abuse, intensive, hard labor while trying to clean up the whole mess, and total disorganization of any form of order or law. Once Daisy and her young cousin, Piper, escape from the military’s grasp, they begin their journey to get back to their home, complete with rape, homicide, and gangs of cannibalistic creeps. Daisy does what she has to do to survive, and those choices aren’t always the prettiest. It’s quite riveting to watch and equally heartbreaking to watch, especially with an ending that never quite explains whether or not it’s happy or sad. I was impressed by this film’s fearlessness and how it managed to get under my skin in such an effective manner.
How I Live Now is not your average post-apocalyptic YA romance, it manages to become much more than that. Saoirse Ronan does a fantastic job as Daisy, the brave and broken protagonist in search of her true home. It does contain romance, but just the right amount and it never gets in the way of its surprisingly powerful opinions on the horrors of war, violence, and the threat of total annihilation. How I Live Now replaces the usual YA gooey romance with hardcore realism and a biting sense of mortality that makes it into a thought-provoking and heavily entertaining watch.