How I Live Now

 
Dark war drama depicts teen love, realistic violence.
  • Review Date: November 6, 2013
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2013
  • Running Time: 101 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The story emphasizes the importance of family and feeling at home somewhere, plus the intensity of finding a love to believe in and fighting to defend those you love.

Positive role models

Daisy, despite her tough exterior, is vulnerable, lonely, and emotionally fragile. She grows throughout the movie, opens herself up to love, and bravely defends and protects her young cousin Piper. Edmond has a soulful connection to nature, and is incredibly empathic. His siblings Isaac and Piper fiercely love their family and want to stay together.

Violence

The war leads to martial law, gun-toting soldiers who drag the girls away and punch one of the brothers. Characters are shot or found dead. In one sequence, men are shown beating and about to rape or kill a woman. Two men menacingly follow two girls and catch one before the other shoots at them. A character finds a mound of corpses in bags and opens them open one by one looking for someone she recognizes.

Sex

Teenage step-cousins (in the book they are first cousins) fall in love, kiss passionately, and have sex on more than one occasion. The love scenes don't show any nudity, but do linger on skin, particularly backs, faces, arms, and legs.

Language

Frequent curse words such as "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "dick," and more.

Consumerism

Apple products are visible.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Daisy takes pills, but it's unclear exactly what they're for; and several adults smoke cigarettes.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that How I Live Now is a wartime relationship drama set in the near future based on an award-winning young adult novel. The film adaptation doesn't shy away from the mature elements in the story: (semi-related) teens have sex, war breaks out, teen and adult characters die or live in constant peril, and there's a lot of strong language. The main love scene between two teens is discrete, and mostly in shadow, but audiences can see their bare backs, legs, kissing, and hear moaning. There's also passionate kissing and frequent use of "f--k," "a--hole," "s--t," and other expletives. The violence is realistic and disturbing and includes corpses and a potential rape. Parents and mature teens will have plenty to discuss about the nature of war, the importance of belonging, and the intensity of first love after the movie.

What's the story?

In HOW I LIVE NOW, troubled American teen Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) is shipped off to the English countryside to stay with her relatives. At first Daisy is unimpressed by her Aunt Penn (Anna Chancellor), an overworked terrorism expert, and self-sufficient step-cousins: handsome Edmond (George MacKay), gentle Isaac (Tom Holland), and chatty young Piper (Harley Bird). Things take an unexpected turn when World War III breaks out while Aunt Penn is abroad, England closes its borders and imposes martial law, and Daisy finds herself passionately drawn to Edmund. But the torrid first love is short-lived when soldiers arrive to send the girls to a foster home and the boys to a labor farm.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Rosoff's book is a difficult one to adapt, with its outbreak of World War III, lyrical passages, traces of magical realism, and the torrid sexual relationship between 14- and 15-year-old first cousins. Director Kevin Macdonald ages up the main characters, erases the blood relation (for American audiences, no doubt), and smartly puts the film in the hands of one of Hollywood's most talented young actresses, Academy Award-nominated Saoirse Ronan, who is up to the task of tackling Daisy, an at-times unlikable, inscrutable protagonist.

Ronan's ethereal beauty and natural talent help her carry the dark drama that's part war movie, part love story, and part coming-of-age tale. She has a visceral chemistry with MacKay, and their connection rings true despite how quickly it turns into passion. The movie is reminiscent in tone of Children of Men (but with less violence), and will make audiences think of whether parentless teens and kids could rise to the occasion to protect and care for one another. Once the story transitions from the cousins' light-dappled country house to the temporary residence Daisy and Piper are forced to move to, it shifts from romance into bleak war drama. Like the book, ugly things happen, and the film is best for mature high schoolers and adults.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about whether the movie is a war drama, a teen romance, a dystopian story, etc. Which genre does it fit in? The book it's based on is considered young adult, but what about the movie -- is it for a teen audience?

  • Discuss the romantic teen relationship in the movie. How is adolescent sex portrayed? Is it believable for teens to be drawn to each other under the circumstances?

  • Those who've read the book: How does the film compare? What do you think of the changes made to the characterizations and the story lines?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 8, 2013
DVD release date:February 11, 2014
Cast:George MacKay, Saoirse Ronan, Tom Holland
Director:Kevin Macdonald
Studio:Magnolia Pictures
Genre:Drama
Topics:Book characters, Brothers and sisters
Run time:101 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:violence, disturbing image, language and some sexuality.

This review of How I Live Now was written by

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Quality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written bywonder dove December 1, 2013
age 15+
 

Definitely worth watching!!

How I live now turned out to be way better than I expected. Some may feel it is unacceptable, as two cousins fall in love (Step-cousins in the film but first cousins in the book). If it bothers you, avoid this one but you may be missing out on something great. Saoirse Ronan plays a troubled American teenager named Daisy who flees to the English countryside to get away from her father, and stay with her cousins, Isaac (Tom Holland), young Piper (Harley Bird) and Edmond (George MacKay) and her Aunt who's never there, (Anna Chancellor). The kids pretty much fend for themselves in a farmhouse full of animals and unwashed dishes. Daisy isn't interested in her cousin's way of life, she thinks their food is gross, won't participate in family activities and prefers to keep to herself until Edmund helps to bring Daisy out of her shell, she becomes attracted to him as he is for her. Shortly after, they begin a passionate relationship that ends rather quickly when soldiers barge in, guns blazing, demanding the boys and girls be separated and sent to working camps as a nuclear war breaks out. However, Daisy and Edmund are determined to reunite. From then on, we're mainly focused on Daisy and Piper's journey through the country, Daisy's strong attempt to get them through it and to find Isaac and first love Edmund while coming face to face with danger every where they go. The film is very engaging, the characters emotions were spot-on and the acting was outstanding! Language is strong with several f-words, uses of sh*t, d*ck, @sshole...etc. Violence is strong and includes gunshots heard, two men are shot, a young girl gets attacked, a pile of dead bodies in bags are shown, a boy is shot, soldiers beat a character who tries to protect his family, reference to rape, girls are chased by men. Sexual content has a quick teen sex scene between cousins but not explicit (no nudity), some passionate kissing. Pills are seen taken which look like medication. Overall, it definitely deserves a watch. Depending on maturity, I think it's alright for teens 15 and up!!
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Teen, 17 years old Written bySean Broucek November 15, 2013
age 14+
 

Compelling dystopian drama is amazingly acted, but edgy at times.

Parents, this compelling war drama about World War III and the blossoming romance of two cousins is sure to entertain audiences, but the dark themes and sexuality make it better for older teens. Violence includes a beating, some brief images of dead or hung people, girls being forced into concentration camps, themes of sadism, and an incest reference. Sex includes some sex scenes with no nudity, kissing, making out, sexual references, and the main character appears almost naked on a few occasions. Language includes one use of "f--k" and frequently, "ass", "s--t" and derivations of "b-tch". Also some teen drinking. In the end, this compelling drama is okay for kids 14 and up. SUGGESTED MPAA RATING: Rated PG-13 For Teen Sexuality And Drinking, Some Disturbing Images And Brief Language Including Drug References
Educator Written bydesjclark May 15, 2015
age 18+
 

Not a Young Adult/Childrens Movie.

I love this book. It is uplifting and although there is a war going on, you are sheltered from seeing any of the violence. The main character overcomes an eating disorder and creates a family in the midst of war. She grows as a person and learns about life. The movie is a very dark and gory portrayal of the horrors of war. It starts out like the book, but it takes a sharp turn after the bomb drops. I love the movie, too- it is a brilliant movie. But, don't let your teenagers who love the book watch this movie. The second half of the movie contains many disturbing/triggering scenes. Scenes of violence include: -The military picking the kids up from the farm starts with them shooting up the barn, waking the kids and nearly killing them all. -Girls see dead bodies in crashed cars on side of road. -Girls are forced into a work camp and the strong implication is made that they are working any child old enough to walk and all adult women to far past their limits and that everyone at this camp is now a slave to the military-run government. The women and children are acting afraid, hungry, ill, and some have obviously been beaten. -The girls find their neighbor, a young boy, who is beaten, is drinking from a flask, and who proceeds to get shot in the head- blood splatter gets all over Daisy's face and she turns to watch the boy crawling, blood and tissue running down his blown-out skull, slowly dying. They flee. -Upon escaping, the houses are being bombed and you can hear people screaming and crying. -They come upon a plane wreck. This includes a small child's shoe and a dead teenager with a very realistic broken and twisted body hanging in a tree. -There is a dead bird rotting in the water, I guess just to add more gore? -They come upon where the boys were supposed to be held, and there are all the boys from that farm in a pile of dead bodies. They are bound, wrists and feet, with rope and their faces are covered in plastic bags. They appear to have all been shot. There are foxes eating the bodies. Daisy has to unwrap each of the heads to confirm that none are her cousins. It does not cut away from showing several heads being unwrapped, some in worse condition than others, until she finds the head of one of her cousins. She takes his bloody glasses, quickly looks at the rest of the corpses, and then pukes bile. -They are woken by a band of para-military guys who have several women in various states of undress, being tied up, and having obviously all been beaten. The women are sobbing, wailing, crying, and begging for mercy. They are obviously being raped and kept by these guys. This is where two of them throw down a woman right next to a hiding Daisy and turn to pee on a tree. The woman sees Daisy and begs for help. Daisy has no choice but to run as the guys pick the woman back up and start beating her again as she tries to fight them off of her. - later, two guys confront her and Piper, and she shoots them both. One is left wailing on the forest floor, shot in the stomach. - Upon returning home, (finally), they see that the military had been using the farmhouse. there is a mattress soaked in blood, maggots all over the kitchen, and signs of vagrants living in the upstairs (drug and alcohol paraphernalia). -They find Edmond, the other brother, very badly beaten. He will not talk. Apparently no end to the war is in site and all their parents are dead and the three of them are left to live off food rations delivered and their farming skills. Oh... and there is a very graphic sex scene (that gets replayed over the course of the movie) between Daisy and Edmond (who slowly fall in love in the book, but decide that they are in love over the course of a few days in the movie although they have never had a conversation). Yes, they are cousins. Step-cousins, if that makes you feel better. Additional triggers are that Daisy has an eating disorder and OCD. She has a lot of distorted thoughts that you hear going around and around in her head about her weight and you see her food avoidance behaviors. This is a brilliant film. It is not for Young Adults and if you have problems with being disturbed by sexual violence, dead children's bodies, or bombs/war, I will warn you that these scenes are gritty, realistic, gory, and disturbing. I'd say that it is on-par with American History X on its level of disturbing-ness.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing

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