REVIEW: How I Live Now

19 02 2016

How I Live NowPlot-wise, not a lot separates Kevin MacDonald’s “How I Live Now” from prestige film “Atonement.” (And yes, going beyond the fact that both feature Saoirse Ronan.) The two films feature the discovery of young, passionate love that gets torn asunder by global warfare. Rather than follow the male into battle, both choose to focus primarily on the female experience on the outskirts of the conflict, where they pine for the restoration of a harmonious world.

But execution and tone set them apart. “How I Live Now” takes place in a nondescript, undeveloped dystopian present-day that erupts into World War III, and it feels more like a bad plot device than any meaningful social commentary. The film is based on a YA novel by Meg Rosoff, and MacDonald struggles to transcend those origins – try as he might to make it more adult with a more tense R-rating.

Ronan gives it her all, too, as protagonist Daisy, a constantly put-out teen who finds meaning in romance with George MacKay’s Eddie after being unceremoniously shipped across the sea to the U.K. But even acting the heck out of her character does not change the fact that Daisy is a whiny, angst-ridden adolescent whose idea of real love is fantasizing about Eddie’s shirtless torso. It may be tough for her to be a young person in a world forcing her to grow up and face the ugliness of humanity. However, it is probably tougher for “How I Live Now” being a teen movie and trying to parade around as a tale for adults. B-2stars

F.I.L.M. of the Week (July 26, 2013)

26 07 2013

Some movies are truly once in a lifetime.  My pick for the “F.I.L.M. of the Week,” Kevin MacDonald’s singular documentary “Life in a Day,” is one such picture.  It’s a film that may actually be able to merit the term universal as it attempts to capture not one shared experience but all worldwide collective experiences using the incredible democratic medium of YouTube.  (And camera crews were dispatched to less wired-in areas of the globe, for those of you concerned about underrepresented viewpoints.)

The experiment was simple: MacDonald and producer Ridley Scott asked people to submit whatever was happening in their lives to YouTube on Saturday, July 24, 2010.  I remember the promotion of the film being all over the site and nearly filmed something myself.  But for whatever reason, I ultimately chose not to, probably out of shame or fear or uncertainty.

Thankfully, there were tons of people who did not share my reservations and were willing to let the world see a little bit of their life.  The worldwide collage that MacDonald assembles is nothing short of earth-shattering as it encompasses as close to the full range of human experience as possible in an hour and a half.  He includes the ordinary and the extraordinary, the highest peaks and the lowest valleys, the big events and the small miracles.

In this catchall of global life, we the audience are renewed by observing how we are all so alike yet also so unique and distinct  We see how the act of recording can ascribe some sort of significance to just any other day.  Yet the miracle of “Life in a Day” is the way it also convinces us that just the act of living itself is significant in and of itself, and we ought to be proud to live each and every day.  A whole world of emotions and experiences awaits us when we wake up; it’s up to us, however, to give them meaning.