How I Live Now, dir. Kevin Macdonald, wr. Jeremy Brock, Tony Grisoni, Penelope Skinner, based on the novel by Meg Rosoff, st. Saoirse Ronan, George MacKay, Tom Holland, Anna Chancellor
Elements of Grisoni's Southcliffe effectively and chillingly course through Macdonald's Threads-inspired drama that concerns a nuclear strike on the UK, and its effects on a group of children. Southcliffe, the recent made-for tv four-part drama about a Dunblane-style Home Counties shooting, conjured atmosphere from the faithful imagining of an event too horrific to comprehend, and here, when the bombs do fall, everything unfolds with rolling-news-style mundanity. The moment of impact is especially effective, with one of the kids' pastoral picnics being interrupted by darkening clouds, an ominous and sudden pickup in the breeze, and drifting fallout. The plot, regrettably just doesn't cut it alas. Poor Daisy, played by Saoirse Ronan, spends too much of the first act being reprehensibly angsty and surly. By the time her character turns and steps up, not even Ronan's skills can turn the tide against her. Additionally, loathe as I am to compare the feature to TV, How I Live Now feels much like one of the more mediocre episodes from AMC's The Walking Dead - a show that does unremittingly bleak depressingly, sometimes unwatchably well - but dressed up and scrubbed down for theatrical release. There are some clever attentions to detail though that do linger; the kids' farmhouse kitchen, initially warmingly brimming with foods, fresh milk and all manner of animals, is a perceptive reminder that as far from cities and skyscrapers as it may seem, nowhere is truly safe from conflict's reach. But the facile slo-mo, sub-vampiric cooing of Daisy and her eldest cousin Edmond (Mackay) had me frustrated at all the film's potential ebbing away with each wide-eyed glance.