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How I Live Now (Blu-ray Review)

How I Live Now - www.whysoblu.comSet in the near-future UK, Saoirse Ronan plays Daisy, an American teenager sent to stay with relatives in the English countryside. Initially withdrawn and alienated, she begins to warm up to her charming surroundings and strikes up a romance with the handsome Edmund (George MacKay). But on the fringes of their idyllic summer days are tense news reports of an escalating conflict in Europe. As the UK falls into a violent, chaotic military state, Daisy finds herself hiding and fighting to survive.

 

How I Live Now - www.whysoblu.com

Film 

How I Live Now is Kevin Macdonald’s (The Eagle, The Last King of Scotland) latest feature film starring Saoirse Ronan (Hanna, Byzantium) is the story of young Daisy who is sent off to live with her relatives in England. Her relatives are her Aunt Penn (Anna Chancellor) and cousins Edmund (George MacKay), Isaac (Tom Holland), and Piper (Harley Bird). Upon arriving at the airport Daisy makes it abundantly clear that she’s the top dog and is to not be messed with. She doesn’t want to be there and really doesn’t care about these people she’s never met. She’s a bit of a bitch and she also hears “voices.” The voices are her thoughts being projected.

Once she gets settled into the house out in the countryside she stays secluded from the rest of he family while they try to include her in all of their activities. That is until she takes a liking to Edmund who is a bit different and almost the same as she is – a kindred spirit of sort but less explosive. They eventually take a liking to each other and their romance escalates. The bad news is (not to mention that they’re technically cousins) is that England is in the midst of WWIII against an unnamed enemy and this will dampen the family’s hopes of living happily ever after.

Jets, helicopters, and an overall military intervention begin occupying territories and relocating family members to segregated camps where women are put to work as laborers and men are sent off to fight against the unnamed “terrorists.”  I think these scenes of violence and brutality give the film a lot of weight, because outside of the war story angle Daisy really isn’t all that likable. She treats her family like crap and is a bit of a pest. It’s when her survival instinct kicks in that How I Live Now takes a more interesting turn. I was indifferent about the love story angle – but towards the end felt that How I Live Now had several things in common with A Very Long Engagement minus that film’s fantasy element. How I Live Now is definitely no fantasy world.

Other interesting aspects of the film are that the enemy is never identified. They’re either referred to as “fascists” or the more general term of “terrorists.” Once you start to see sprinklings of the enemy here and there it’s made somewhat clear that England is in the midst of a civil war. What the rest of the world is doing to help the “good guys” is never mentioned or shown. The way that’s set up is of just being dropped into this environment and what you see is what you get. It wasn’t frustrating but there were a few questions I had that were not answered. I did get a sense of this world being in the not-so-distant future.

Saorise Ronan and company are all on point and How I Live Now is a war movie that’s basically seen through the eyes of children and young adults and to how desensitized to violence they are. How I Live Now is based on the young adult novel by the same name written by Meg Rosoff. I have not read the book but what I have read up on is that the characters in the book are much younger and Daisy has an eating disorder. Daisy did not have an eating disorder in the film. The film is rated R for violence, disturbing images, and some sexuality, so take that with a grain of salt. The film is for a much older audience.

 

How I Live Now - www.whysoblu.com

Video 

How I Live Now is presented in 1080p, 1.85:1 widescreen. The color palette is pretty amazing and just pop out at the viewer. This of course shifts once the violence reaches the family to a less vibrant color palette outside of Saoirse and Harley’s hair color. Black levels are steady and never crush and contrast levels never run hot. It gets a near reference rating, because haze is visible in a few shots and I don’t think it was for stylistic purposes. The video for How I Live Now is a winner.

How I Live Now - www.whysoblu.com

Audio 

How I Live Now is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1. I mentioned that the film felt as if you were dropped into this world with just your wits about you. This lossless soundtrack enhances that feeling especially when sudden acts of violence hit the screen. There are several scenes that allude to a nuclear weapon being used and when those scenes hit the LFE channels does its thing and shakes the house! It’s a very startling sound effect but very effective. Dialogue is crisp and clear without hiss or clipping and the rear channels capture the instances of gunfire perfectly. This is a demo-worthy soundtrack.

How I Live Now - www.whysoblu.com

Extras 

How I Live Now has more special features than what I was expecting. Magnolia can be very hit and miss when it comes to supplemental materials. The Blu-ray includes deleted scenes, extensive interviews with the cast and crew, a making-of featurette, behind-the-scenes comparisons, a trailer, and an AXS TV promotional spot for the film. It’s not a bad set of extras. An audio commentary would have been nice but the interviews themselves run almost an hour, so that more than makes up for the lack of a running commentary track, in my opinion.

  • Interviews (cast, director, producers, and author) 
  • Behind the Scenes Comparisons
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Making of How I Live Now 
  • AXS TV: A Look at How I Live Now
  • Trailer

 

How I Live Now - www.whysoblu.com

Summary 

How I Live Now is not your conventional or traditional love story  – it’s set in a brutal and ugly world where impending doom doesn’t seem to really be a concern. It rises to the top due to fine performances by the cast and great directing by Kevin Macdonald. The Blu-ray presentation is stellar and the extras are more than adequate. I would not recommend the film to the young ones but if they’ve already read the book and are at all curious then I leave that up to the parents to decide. I understand YA literature is very popular nowadays and Hollywood is on a mission to adapt almost anything. For the rest us – How I Live Now is a very good war movie disguised as a love story. There is nothing wrong with that.

 

Order How I Live Now on Blu-ray!

How I Live Now - www.whysoblu.com

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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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