How I Live Now

  • Review Date: November 6, 2013
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2013
  • Running Time: 101 minutes

Common Sense Media says

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.


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.


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.


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


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.

Parents say

Kids say

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?


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
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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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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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

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

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
Adult Written byjuliepfeffer January 5, 2015

How I Live Now

I'm thirteen years old, and of course, being 13, I was browsing Netflix for a dystopian movie. I first found "The Host," which is now my favorite movie. I loved the actress, Saoirse Ronan, and searched for other movies of hers. When I found this one, I watched it without reading the rating. I would only recommend this to anyone above the age of 13, and if you are my age, then you sure better be a hell load mature. There was plenty of uses of "f**k" by the protagonist, Daisy, and a sex scene with her cousin. (which doesn't show too much, as I have only seen two sex scenes, in my life, and let me say, the Notebook was way worse). Uses of the word "d**k" and "s**t" are common too. Violence- bullet wounds can be seen in characters heads, especially two 14 year olds. There is a war going on so obviously there is going to be plenty of violence. Trigger warning- main character has an eating disorder. Though it may not be very obvious, as I barely realized the first time I watched it, it is still there.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing


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