How I Live Now

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
How I Live Now Movie Poster Image
Dark war drama depicts teen love, realistic violence.
  • R
  • 2013
  • 101 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 2 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

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 & Representations

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.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
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 co... Continue reading
Adult Written bydesjclark May 15, 2015

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 eat... Continue reading
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 sexuali... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byGaine Ay. December 30, 2017

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?

As in the book, ugly things happen in this film, and it's best for mature high schoolers and adults. 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.

Talk to your kids 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

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