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Blu-ray Review: 'How I Live Now'

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The Film:

How I Live Now” is a fractured, senseless tale that is based entirely upon a faulty premise. Set in the near future, its basic plot has a young girl, Daisy (Saoirse Ronan), being sent to England to spend the summer with her cousins. She obviously doesn’t want to go and is rather miserable when she arrives. To make matters worse, England is on the brink of war as bombings occur in London and nearby countries. This is in addition to the fact that the cousins’ mother has run off to Geneva, leaving the kids all alone at home in this perilous time. To protect themselves against the impending evacuation, the kids relocate to a nearby barn, where Daisy falls in love with the eldest of her cousins, Edmond (George MacKay). Shortly after, they are discovered by the military and separated. Daisy and her youngest cousin, Piper (Harley Bird), eventually escape their captivity and begin their journey home where she hopes to find Edmond waiting for her.

Let’s start taking this story apart piece by piece. First off, as I mentioned earlier, it’s based entirely on a faulty premise. Daisy’s father sends her from the States to England, a country that is on the brink of war. Either Daisy’s father is completely ignorant of international events or he is simply the worst father on the planet. Two, no mother in their right mind would leave a group of kids alone at such a tumultuous time, no matter how important her work in Geneva was. Sure, she says that a friend of hers will look in on them, but still, this is not a matter that anyone would leave to even the most trusted of friends. We’ve already had a candidate for worst father on the planet, looks like we have one for mother as well.

However, perhaps the film’s biggest flaw lies in the romantic relationship at its core. At no point during the film does this relationship feel real. Daisy and Edmond fall in love at first sight, something that is not uncommon, but the two are given such little time together that we can scarce believe that they form an emotional connection that quickly. Looking at it more generally, Ronan and MacKay simply have no chemistry together, making the relationship feel even less believable, and when the latter half of the film ends up depending upon the audience wanting the two to get back together in the end, that’s something that can be quite detrimental.

It’s easy to see what the filmmakers were going for: a story of young love and survival during wartime, but there are far too many holes in this story and a lack of essential ingredients to make it work. Some of the smaller details they might have been able to fix (perhaps Daisy’s father had a really, really good reason for sending her away into a dangerous situation and perhaps the cousins’ mother could have just been separated like the rest of the group), but it’s unclear whether the central relationship could have been repaired or not. I don’t think it’s so much the actors’ fault as it is the screenwriters’ for not giving them enough time to develop their relationship, something that was desperately needed in order to allow the audience to form an emotional connection with them. Without that, we simply have no reason to care as to whether or not they get back together. In the end, it’s very hard to tell what the filmmakers were thinking while putting this together because it simply doesn’t work.

Video/Audio:

“How I Live now” is presented in a 1.85:1, 1080p High Definition transfer that is of varying quality. There are times when the picture is perfectly sharp and clear, while at other times it becomes very grainy, particularly during the darker scenes. For the most part, we get a decent picture, but there was certainly room for improvement. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is on the very soft side, so you’ll most likely find yourself having to turn it up quite a bit to hear what’s being said. However, once it’s adjusted, the audio is of decent enough quality to be heard clearly.

Special Features:

Deleted Scenes: About five minutes of superfluous scenes that aren’t really worth the time to look at as they don’t add anything to the film.

Making of How I Live Now: A six-minute featurette that takes a superficial look at the making of the film via film clips and snippets of interviews conducted with the cast and crew. It’s easily skipable given that there’s not much to be learned here.

Interviews: Nearly an hour’s worth of interviews with cast, crew, and the author of the source novel that go into a lot more depth about the film. Definitely worth a watch if you’re looking to learn more.

Behind the Scenes Comparison: A few minutes of behind the scenes footage that shows you scenes being shot. This is another featurette that doesn’t really tell you anything about the film, so it’s not particularly worth watching.

AXS TV: A Look At How I Live Now: Just like with the other AXS TV featurettes, this is another completely pointless inclusion that merely features film clips and very brief snippets of the interviews. Easily skipable.

Conclusion:

With just one featurette worth exploring and a film with so many issues that it’s hard to tell whether it could be fixed or not, it’s easy to recommend that you leave this release on the store shelf. Being that the film is based on a book, it could be a simple issue of the adaptation not being true to the source material. However, given that the author was onboard, I doubt she would have allowed that to happen. Whatever the case, the filmmakers should have realized that they were making the cinematic equivalent of Swiss cheese, but with far less substance.

Score: 2/5

Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.

Recent Blu-ray/DVD releases: Night of the Demons, Witchboard, Dallas Buyers Club, The Fifth Estate, Captain Phillips, You're Next, A Single Shot, Insidious: Chapter 2, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

Now playing in theaters: Labor Day, The Wolf of Wall Street, Her, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Inside Llewyn Davis, American Hustle, Saving Mr. Banks, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Also be sure to check out my lists of the Best and Worst Films of 2013.

Follow me on Twitter @BeckFilmCritic.

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