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Thursday, 10 October 2013
Film: 'HOW I LIVE NOW'
I'd already been aware that it had got a range of reviews, none wildly enthusiastic - but 20% of those voting on IMDb had scored it with the max of 10, so it couldn't be really that bad, could it? Read on - though it may contain what some consider as 'spoilers'. (But you've already had a sneaky peek at my last line, haven't you?)
Saoirse Ronan ('The Lovely Bones', 'Atonement') takes on a more 'mature' (relatively) role as an unlikeable, lippy 16 year old American who hears voices in her head, coming to England to live for a while with her cousins in their country home, having (one assumes) fled from her unloving father in New York. The family she stays with consists of four kids, straddling both sides of puberty, plus their mother who has to suddenly leave for Switzerland leaving them to cope for themselves. My negative mood took a further dive on finding that they had as pets, two dogs and two cats - plus a goat! My concern was what was to happen to these, since I knew that this was to be one of those 'apocalyptic' films. However, of worry there was no real need, as soon into the film we see no more of the animals - with a single brief, not over-upsetting exception.
A corniness sets in early on. As soon as the newcomer sees her slightly older, hitherto unknown, 'cousin' (?) her hostility to all and sundry starts to melt in the presence of this imposing figure (though he didn't do much for me, as well as being far too young anyway) and before you can shout "Get 'em off!" the two of them are engaged in some vigorous rumpy-pumpy. (Apparently consanguinity is not an issue.)
Near the film's start there's a puzzling meteorological event in the open fields which, we're soon to learn, is the effect of a terrorist-instigated nuclear explosion in the capital. Exactly who the terrorists are is not revealed. The only time we see them is much later as some balaclava'd men in combat gear, so it's unlikely to have been the obvious suspects.
The children are forcibly evacuated, separated into M and F, with the 16 year old and her little cousin taken to a house, where they don't remain long. After that it's a cat and mouse game with the two of them trying to survive while attempting to reunite with the three boys. Enough said of the plot.
There are a couple of disturbing scenes including a bit of violence, but nothing like as bad as has been seen many times before.
I must say the banal script throughout had to be heard to be believed. Imagination had clearly taken a holiday. The storyline had potential to be at least superficially interesting, but we don't want it padded out with everyone continually stating the obvious. Large parts of it would have benefited by being in total silence, with the characters merely exchanging glances implying approval, disagreement or whatever.
And another thing. One of my major irritations is for those films when we have to have a song on the soundtrack to accompany actions which are of no great consequence to the plot, to supposedly set the mood. As if once isn't bad enough, here we're subjected to this silliness twice. Twice! And then there are several moments when, instead of a song we get a tinkling piano in the manner of one of those relaxation/easy listening recordings. Oh, per-leeeeeeze!
If, after all this, you think I don't have a particularly high opinion of this film, well, you'd be right. It's difficult to pick out something positive to say about it. Oh yes, there is one thing - the landscape photography was impressive.
And is this the same director, Kevin Macdonald, who gave us 'The Last King of Scotland' in 2006? Too true it is, though that film itself, while pretty good, was hardly an earth-shaker.
But must do my duty. In a part-forgiving frame of mind (because I'm hoping that tomorrow I can see a film which I'm simply bound to like a lot more, and so dilute the memory of this unpleasant experience) I'll give this one a generous, though still thumbs down...............................3.