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‘How I Live Now’: Teen love, torn apart by a bomb


Daisy Saoirse Ronan

Edmund George MacKay

Piper Harley Bird

Magnolia Pictures presents a film directed by Kevin Macdonald and written by Jeremy Brock, Penelope Skinner and Tony Grisoni. Running time: 101 minutes. No MPAA rating (contains discreet teen sex and brief wartime carnage). Opens Friday at AMC River East and AMC South Barrington.

Updated: November 7, 2013 9:54PM

Teen girls running for their lives through the woods. That trope is found in screen adaptations of novels by J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyers and Suzanne Collins on the young-adult shelf. In Meg Rosoff’s 2004 book “How I Live Now,” narrator Daisy does likewise. Crossing the war-torn English countryside, this American teen will find her beloved cousin in a bad way.

Saoirse Ronan (“The Host” and “Hannah”) plays the intrepid Daisy in the engaging film of “How I Live Now” directed by Kevin Macdonald (“The Last King of Scotland”). The antisocial 15-year-old New Yorker (her shirt reads “My Lazer Kitten Will Destroy You”) is sent overseas by her father to stay with his late wife’s sister, a foreign policy expert whose laptop displays a bar graph titled “Projected Deaths Across Northern Europe.”

Daisy bonds with her cousin Edmund (George MacKay) and his hawk. Then a dirty bomb goes off in London. “As many as 15 groups claim responsibility,” reports the BBC. Separated, the sweethearts vow to return to the family’s bucolic farmhouse.

“I’ve read the screenplay, and think it’s actually better than the book,” blogged the Boston-born and London-based Rosoff in 2010. Her readers will notice the film rightly omits Daisy’s return to the U.S. for six years. The unnamed enemy are guerillas instead of occupiers, as in the original novel. And instead of being anorexic, now Daisy is a germophobe with voices in her head — though I could have done without all the intuitive-telepathic-whispering stuff.

Set in England, the dystopic “Brazil” and “28 Days Later” both ended with pastoral idylls for adult couples. “How I Live Now” offers adolescents a lovely vision of holistic healing in the same countryside.

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