You can throw a stone in any movie theatre in the world right now and hit at least five posters all advertising movies set in a post apocalyptic world. If there’s not a brown-haired chick with a bow and arrow killing villains with genetically enhanced bees then there’s a red-head fighting against the government in a black vest top with a sexy male counterpart. It’s the thing right now, and don’t get me wrong, I’m kind of loving it. I have a fetish for all things alternative world-y and I’m not apologizing. Give me a Saturday night in with a Daim Bar infused block of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk and the “next big thing” in YA fiction and I’m a pretty satisfied boy. However, after fifty-thousand pages of sweaty fight scenes and stolen looks across at the broody yet sensitive fight instructor it can feel as if they all blur into one. Young adult writers really have to find a way to get ahead of the curve and present the audience with something fresh, whilst maintaining all those attributes that keeps the genre so popular.
Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now, released in 2004, really sets itself apart in the YA stakes, flying pretty much under the radar but entertaining and traumatizing all those who find it on the shelf. It focuses on Manhattan brat and struggling anorexic Daisy who heads on over to the other side of the pond to live with her cousins just as a third world war devastates the world. The film was released this year and features the enchanting Saoirse Ronan in the lead role. You would think an Irish girl playing an American in England would present a challenge for most actresses but not Miss Ronan, the girl has caused scandal and devastation in Atonement and played a cut-throat killer assassin in Hanna so her range knows no bounds. As Daisy arrives she struggles to get involved with her cousins’ way of life. They swim, they fish and they frolic in lovely hills from sunrise to sunset and that really isn’t Daisy’s bag. However, dark and brooding Edmond (played by George MacKay) manages to break her down and together they embark on a tempestuous and incestuous love affair that is so cute and British, you half expect Hugh Grant to turn up! But alas, their love is rocked when terrorists release a nuclear bomb in London, world war three is declared, and Daisy and Edmond are separated but not before promising each other that they’ll return to their idyllic life some how, some way!
As a soppy romantic with a love of hand held camera style filming, I was in cinematic nirvana. Ronan and MacKay’s chemistry is so enticing and impacting, they’ve got to be getting it on in real life! The very British feel and the fact that the plot is so grounded in reality is what makes How I Live Now a remarkable YA adaptation. As Daisy and her young cousin, Piper, embark across the country to return to the past they encounter the true horrors of war and the film does not shy away from expressing the real darkness of humanity when all types of order have been abolished. I won’t go into much more detail, but I think you know what I’m eluding to. As the film progresses the suspense never lets up, as Daisy and Piper travel further and further into danger you get a sense that there may not be a happy ending after all.
The film may bombed at the box office which I think is a shame, as How I Live Now is a film that very much presents the YA genre in a fresh and original way, and not to mention the actors are realistically good-looking which is always a bonus. Not without it’s faults, of course, as Daisy’s dream-sequences are so fanciful that the stark reality style shoots are slightly tarnished, also Miss Ronan gives us a nip-slip that is just not needed and makes you feel a little weird. But I digress, How I Live Now is a fantastic film that both entertains and illuminates whilst gives off the meaningful message in regards to the importance of people and how life really is a blessing. Sniff!