Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

How I Live Now


Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) arrives at a highly militarized Heathrow Airport in England from America. There is some sort of terrorist crisis going on. She stays with her cousins in the country as their mother is off to Geneva for a “peace conference.” At first she hates it, but soon develops a crush on Eddie.

Then a nuclear weapon is exploded in London. Hundreds of thousands dead, fallout drifting out as far as the farm. Power goes off, not much to be heard on the radio except government edicts as martial law is declared.

SPOILER WARNING: At first they all treat it as a lark, they don’t seem all that upset. Mom will be home and sort all this out, is the attitude, until British soldiers arrive and roust them all into trucks, separating the boys from the girls. Daisy and the younger girl, Piper, are housed in a home and labor on a farm during the day, as things get worse and worse. Daisy determines to run away and find their way back to the farm, and Eddie. Along the way there are the sort of hardships you would expect: piles of slaughtered men (wrapped in plastic for some reason), hunger, thirst, exhaustion, rapists. They make it back, and a little later Eddie shows up, beaten and burned almost to death, so traumatized by PTSD that he can’t even speak. Daisy holds out hope that he will eventually recover, but it’s left up in the air.

There was an irony here, for me. I really do understand that the point being made in this story is that even in a limited holocaust situation, information will be hard to come by. We quite rightly learn only what Daisy knows, and it is pathetically little. But not knowing is frustrating! You don’t want to be frustrated while watching a movie, you want answers. You get none. The scenario of a terrorist nuke in London is all too possible. But the rest …

We learn almost nothing about what’s going on. We know the Army is fighting someone, but they are only called “terrorists,” “guerillas,” “insurgents,” and “the enemy.” Yeah? We see them only from a distance. So are these British guys, who are so numerous and well-organized that they are able to engage the Army, and actually be winning some battles? Really? Or are they foreign invaders, who somehow have managed to land on British soil in sufficient numbers to be an effective fighting force? Really? It all seems implausible to me, which is why I wanted to know a little more … and damn it, I understand why I’m not told more … and it’s frustrating! That’s the irony.

The movie is beautiful to look at (except when it is showing atrocities, of course), with the English countryside at its photogenic best. The acting is good; I’ve always enjoyed Saoirse Ronan. I can recommend it … if you can get past the business of never really knowing anything.