How I Live Now

Nov 17, 2013

Teen romances should be banned until the underagers grow up.

How I Live Now

Grade: C+

Director: Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland)

Screenplay: Jeremy Brock (The Eagle), Tony Grisoni (The Lives of the Saints), from Meg Rosoff novel.

Cast: Saoirse Ronan (Hanna), George Mackay (Defiance)

Rating: R


by John DeSando

“In no order of things is adolescence the time of the simple life.” Janet Erskine Stuart

Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) is sweet 16 but not so sweet. Filled with teen angst and disgust for kids and adults alike in How I Live Now, she visits the English countryside for a summer with her relatives. Soon she falls in love and the world falls apart.

A terrorist-nuked London and subsequent military state make the second half of this film move at twice the speed of the first half.  The second-half has the deadly-virus feel of Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later—but not enough—and echoes of Ronan’s teen survivor in Hanna—but not enough.

At what point Daisy becomes a survivalist par excellence is never clear; it just happens. Her accurately handling a gun is a miracle for a NYC teen who probably never touched one before. Her change from isolated, grumpy teen to loving, engaged heroine is too swift to be believed.

The first half is consumed by her love affair (16 years old—yikes!) with resident hunk, Eddie (George Mackay). Let me tell you, teen passion has little to commend it, and even spunky Ronan has difficulty making me care about it. Yet this love is the frame of the film as she leads her younger cousin Piper (Harley Bird) back home from the compound for sequestered rural residents in her hope to reunite with Eddie.

This romance gives me pause about the Hunger Games, whose young love now seems mature by contrast.

If How I Live Now is a metaphoric treatise on Eve’s journey out of paradise or teens’ need to engage their natural instincts and chuck the superficiality of urban life, then the film has succeeded. Those lofty themes are not helped by the disjointed narrative and silly romance. 

Surviving a nuclear attack is subject enough.

John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at Contact him at