Critics' Pick

How I Live Now (R)

Drama 101 November 8, 2013
By Alan Scherstuhl
Here's how disastrous the MPAA rating system has become. How I Live Now, Kevin Macdonald's stellar adaptation of Meg Rosoff's uncommonly smart and insightful near-future young adult novel, has won an R rating for its language. The protagonist, Daisy, played by a prickly and raw-eyed Saoirse Ronan, is at first often uncertain and hostile, a punk-ish sort who pushes the world away because she doesn't see where she fits in it. Like millions, she hears at awkward moments a panicked voice in her own head: "Goddamn it, Daisy, I knew you'd fuck this up!" she shouts late in the film. We also hear her internal voices calling her ugly and stupid, sometimes anxiously swearing. In short: The MPAA believes teenagers shouldn't see a film that dares to show what being a teenager actually feels like. The story couldn't be simpler. Alienated American Daisy is dispatched by her father to rural England to spend the summer -- and hide out from a vague yet pressing war -- with her British cousins. Cue a rambunctious pastoral as she and a clutch of ragamuffins lark off for picnics, creek-swimming, and even a bit of falconry. Everything cinched too tight in Daisy slowly loosens, a transformation Ronan handles superbly, especially as the air between her and handsome Edmond (George MacKay) starts getting sticky. Then comes the apocalypse, and in a tense, tough-minded third act, Daisy and the much younger Piper (Harley Bird) are run through something like a YA take on The Road. Daisy gets tested, of course, and discovers a truth The Hunger Games toys with but never fully commits to: Violent heroism is resolutely un-awesome.
Kevin Macdonald Saoirse Ronan, Tom Holland, Anna Chancellor, George MacKay, Corey Johnson, Sophie Ellis, Harley Bird, Sabrina Dickens, Natasha Jonas, Gavin Sims Jeremy Brock, Tony Grisoni, , Meg Rosoff, Penelope Skinner, Jack Thorne John Battsek, Alasdair Flind, Andrew Ruhemann, Charles Steel Magnolia Pictures

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