EMINE – ‘How I Live Now’: arrested development in dystopia

‘How I Live Now’: arrested development in dystopiaTalented young Irish actress Saoirse Ronan gives her best in every film she stars in, yet her films remain in a cinematic zone where they can’t jump the threshold of greatness. She initially attracted attention with her impeccable performance in Joe Wright’s 2007 “Atonement” and then moved on to perform in Peter Jackson’s “Lovely Bones,” Andrew Niccol’s “The Host” and Neil Jordan’s “Byzantium.” These last three films were all directed by acclaimed directors, yet they were all subject to mixed reviews and under-anticipated box-office figures. Once again, Ronan collaborates with an esteemed director, this time Kevin Macdonald of “The Last King of Scotland” in a screen adaptation of Meg Rosoff’s successful children’s novel “How I Live Now.”Although this film tries incredibly hard to relay an accessible narrative sprinkled with artistic and visual ambitions, there is too much discrepancy in its storyline for it to be either an English cousin of the “Twilight Saga” in regards to the hyperbolic teenage romance or for it to be the sister of “Never Let Me Go” regarding its dystopian atmosphere.It is the near future and Daisy — whose real name is Elizabeth, but she can’t stand her given name — is sent from America to England for the summer by her father and stepmother so she can stay with her aunt and her cousins. Daisy is your typical 15-year-old, full of angst, resentment and insecurity she has a tongue of poison and is as selfish as they get. Cousin Isaac picks her up at an unnamed English airport to take her to the family’s remote farm. The British landscape is beautiful, yet the world is on the brink of a global war so the presence of fighter planes and sounds of bomb explosions have become a part of daily life. While the world is in such a horrible state, we wonder to ourselves whether we should care about young Daisy’s pubescent problems.Daisy and her cousins initially lead an idyllic life in the environs of the isolated farm we watch them in sequences that remind us of an early 1990s MTV music video clip where they are running through the forests, swimming in the lake and basking in nature. Daisy even falls in love with her eldest cousin Edmond (George McKay), who helps her forget her miserable existence. The main problem here, though, is that we are not ultimately convinced by their romance, for the film never allows us room for emotional anticipation.When World War III finally breaks out and England is taken over by a military regime, Daisy and her youngest cousin, Piper, are separated from the boys Isaac and Edmond and the two girls are sent off to a working camp. We never really know which forces are attacking England, and we are left to assume that the new regime is a mini-manifestation of the universe in George Orwell’s book “Nineteen Eighty-Four.” There are too many loose ends for us to fully understand the elements of this new world order and to be in fear of it.Daisy and Piper manage to escape the camp and embark on a dangerous journey through a landscape of chaos and destruction to find Edmond and Isaac. On the way, they encounter many evil men, starvation and a whole lot of dead bodies. Is it really necessary that there should be a world war for a spoilt young girl to fully grow up and transform into an adult, I asked myself throughout the last 50 minutes of the film. Surely, every character needs obstacles to realize himselfherself, but at least it would have been a good idea to make Daisy a more complex personality for us to be interested in her coming-of-age story.There are indeed several tender moments in the film that say something about the situation of humanity however, the sum of these moments is not strong enough to make “How I Live Now” worth one’s time. Regrettably, this film cannot realize its potential and comes out as a stale type that cannot decide what it wants to do, just like a confused 16-year-old.

SOURCE: Today Zaman

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