Often, we forget, or have not quite reached the age yet, or perhaps are this age, but the nature of teenagerdom is embodied by the word “Now”. This is what was missing from, say, The Hunger Games or The Host, the sense of urgency, the feeling of living in the eternal present, alone, misunderstood.
When we first see Elizabeth, (sorry, Daisy), she is accompanied by a blast of angry music. Even the colour and intensity of the title cards suggest that this girl means trouble. The bleached blonde hair, facial rings, and American accent disguise it, but there is conflict in the persona of Daisy. Perhaps this is because she is played by Saorsie Ronan, who cannot help looking sweet and innocent. Daisy has been sent to live with her cousins in England, and when young cousin Isaac, (played by Tom Holland) comes to pick her up, we can tell that this world is not the one that we are familiar with now.
But yet, Daisy seems to be okay in a place where young children drive, and the threat of…well, we are never truly sure, the threat of some kind of invisible war hangs over England.
It is this threat, this sense of “almost” that desires to seep into the now drives this film, (and indeed, the book as well). Daisy is softened somewhat by her father’s lack of interest in caring for her, her aunt’s distracted nature, and indeed, the strangest English house full of moppets and unicorns one has discovered in a long time.
Now and then, there is a moment where Daisy grows out of her disaffected nature, (especially when falling for the stoic Edmond, her cousin, of whom the movie clarifies that they are “not really cousins”, and with whom she shares a sort of psychic connection.
The sense of Now starts to pervade Daisy’s life, (as well as Edmond’s), but the payoff of war does not carry as much weight as the looming threat. There is a dark social satire reminiscent of The Manchurian Candidate hidden contained within this film.
George MacKay, who plays Edmond, and could not be more different than his character, gave a fascinating take on the potential of the unseen threat in How I Live Now:
“It’s very relevant for today in the sense that the enemies we face are pretty faceless now, and people do destroy things by pushing buttons, and there’s bombs that turn corners pretty much. There’s a face that’s not kind of two people hand-to-hand combat. And that’s the fear that we have nowadays is that we don’t know that something’s going to come from way off. What’s going on in Syria, there’s going to be interventions coming by submarine miles off the coast. There’s not going to be people stepping on the actual land. It’s weird”.
The concerns brought up by MacKay, and indeed though a closer examination of the movie, demands that this film, especially by teenagers, demands to be seen, now.