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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: How I Live Now

February 9th, 2014

How I Live Now - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

How I Live Now is based on a 2004 Young Adult novel, which puts it in a category that includes nearly all films made in the past decade or so. That's exaggerating, but it is one of the crowded genres today with numerous examples coming out each year. How I Live Now wasn't one of the more lucrative examples. In fact, it opened in limited release missing the Mendoza Line before quickly disappearing from theaters. Granted, it was also a Video on Demand premiere so that has a serious effect on box office numbers. Should it have performed better? Or does it suffer from too many of the clich├ęs of the genre.

The Movie

The film begins with Daisy on a plane traveling to England. We learn her mother died and her father sent her to England to spend time with her cousins. It's not a good time to be in England. There was a recent bombing in Paris and the military presence is overwhelming in the city. She is picked up by Isaac, one of her cousins, who despite being only 14 drove from the countryside to get her. When they get to their home, Piper runs out to greet her. She's the youngest, and the only girl, so she super excited to see Daisy. So are the two dogs. Edmond, the oldest, helps her out, but he's about as friendly as she is and leaves immediately. Joe, the nextdoor neighbor, is also there, but the mother, Aunt Penn, doesn't make an appearance yet. It's a rough beginning to her summer, but she's not really trying at all to fit in with her new surroundings.

It isn't until Daisy talks to her Aunt Penn that she begins to settle in. It was her mother's favorite place, which is part of the reason her father send her there. (It isn't an entirely comforting discussion, because it is clear the peace process Daisy is working on isn't going smoothly.)

The next day, Daisy's cousins go out swimming and while at first Daisy doesn't want to go, she relents. The group actually do have a lot of fun and it looks like Daisy's summer will be a wonderful one, then it happens.

Discussing what It is is a bit of a spoiler, but also the whole point of the movie. If you don't know what It is, it is nearly impossible to tell if you will be interested in the film. So spoiler warning... It is a nuclear explosion that hit London, likely killing hundreds of thousands of people. What happens next is even more into spoiler territory, but the rest of the film focuses on Daisy and the cousins dealing with the aftermath. This parts works quite well, because there's a lot for them to deal with and the characters and the situations are engaging. Then Fascism comes to power and they are forced to become soldiers or farmers. Enemy forces attack, and soon Daisy and Piper are alone trying to survive in the woods and find a safe place to be. The latter part doesn't work as well. Once the third act starts, it feels too close to too many other films. The film loses its focus on the kids and it struggles as a result. On the plus side, Saoirse Ronan can play a young lady trying to survive and make it really believable. Of course she can, she proved so in Hanna. Harley Bird is also very good in a role that could have been an anchor to the film. (The other actors don't get enough screen time to stand out.)

Overall, How I Live Now works enough that it is worth checking out and even during the weaker third act it is still very compelling. It just isn't quite as good as it could have been. There are other films that did this part of the story better.

The Extras

For a film that made $60,000 in theaters, there are plenty of extras on the DVD, starting with five minutes of deleted scenes. There is also a six-minute making of featurette. Up next are six interview featurettes with a total running time of 53 minutes. They include most of the cast, as well as Kevin MacDonald, the director, as well as the author, Meg Rosoff, and two of the producers. Behind the Scenes Comparison looks at several scenes from the movie being filmed while showing a picture-in-picture like look at the final scenes from the movie. AXS TV: A Look At... is three minutes of promotional fluff. You don't get much more here than you get in the trailer, which is also on the DVD. The interviews are far more substantial.

I don't have the Blu-ray to compare, but at the moment, the Blu-ray costs more than double what the DVD costs. That's not even close to acceptable. To be fair, the list price for the Blu-ray is only $3 or 11% more than the DVD, which is excellent, so blame for the lack of substantial discount on the Blu-ray.

The Verdict

How I Live Now earned good reviews, but not great reviews, and I think that is wholly accurate. It is worth checking out and the extras on the DVD and Blu-ray lift it to the purchase level. On the other hand, the third act doesn't quite live up to the first two, so while it is a good movie, it is not quite a great movie.

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Filed under: Video Review, How I Live Now, Anna Chancellor, Kevin MacDonald, Saoirse Ronan, Tom Holland, Meg Rosoff, George MacKay, Harley Bird, Danny McEvoy