Dystopian worlds are the popular genre of the year but How I Live Now takes it on in a unique way. Typically these worlds have distinct differences between ours and theirs. But this film opts to create a stark realism creating an eerily real atmosphere.
Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) is a rebellious teen from the US visiting her bohemian cousins in the UK. She refuses to try new things, sticking to her guns- her complete control over herself. But her layers start to peel away when she becomes involved with Eddie (George MacKay). Of course, that is when all hell breaks loose. The UK is in the midst of World War III and the cousins are all on their own. After living off the land, Daisy, Eddie, Piper (Harley Bird) and Isaac (Tom Holland) are forced apart but vow to be reunited. The film tracks Daisy and Piper's journey back to her love, Eddie. Fighting the odds to simply make it back alive, but that doesn't mean that it will leave them untouched.
Director, Kevin MacDonald, has a strong documentary film background which is extremely present throughout the film. The film features the beautiful scenery of Wales, with its swooping establishing shots that, although breathtakingly beautiful, come with an air of fear. Simply because the usage of real locations that correlate with the real world poses the idea that this (the war) could easily happen today. Especially since, not only is the year the narrative is set, is never mentioned. But because MacDonald never mentions what caused the war or who it is between. This lack of clarity reestablishes the idea that this could happen any time.
But that is the great thing about the film. Although clearly happening during a horrible war, that is not the purpose of the film. It is a love story and it stick to that. Unlike other films that may evolve from a love story to a war one, How I Live Now does comment on the war but does not focus on it. One knows that the war is still going on through distant sounds and Daisy and Piper stumbling across the aftermath.
Ronan creates a powerful leading lady. She had to be able to allow the audience watch her strip away her tough outer layer to be more accepting. But she does not transform from the mean girl to the nice one in a lovely montage. Instead, she allows herself less self-control but never really loses her skepticism and anger. When escaping through the woods with Piper, instead of being understanding of her younger cousins exhaustion, she actually gets mad at her and questions leaving her behind. She is a woman with a single mission- to get back with Eddie. It deviates from her typical characters, as for once, she gets to play a normal teenager with typical issues. Of course Daisy is not typical in the fact that she has to survive a war but Ronan plays it off in such a way that she is still a relateable character. She has to turn Daisy from a disliked character to one that is rooted for in the end. It is not an easy feat but Ronan is the one to do it. By the end of the film, one cannot help but to be hoping that Daisy finds Eddie.
It is not a complicated narrative but it executed in such a way that one still feels compelled. The beautiful mix between gorgeous scenery and the mission to get home is a journey that many people may relate to, literally or metaphorically. Thrown in the midst of the other films of 2013, How I Live Now stands out for a number of reasons. First, it does not utilize over the top extra effects, allowing for natural beauty and effects to lead the way. Second, it is not overly complicated. The straight forward narrative is able to develop in a natural way over the film instead of fighting to fit every ounce of information into it. Lastly, MacDonald aimed to get 'unknowns' for his film. Although each actor has been in other things, save for Ronan, they are still particularly unknown actors. On top of this, the films main actors are all children. This allows the innocents of youth to seep out, as well as letting the film focus on the narrative rather than the performance of big name actors.
Overall, I was happy to watch this film in the midst of other stereotypical rom-coms. Whether the narrative is appealing to you or not, the visuals alone is able to draw you in with natural beauty that has been overlooked for modern sets.
'Jobs' is the anticipated film that allows that audience a glimpse into the life of the revolutionary Steve Jobs who created the company Apple. With this kind of biography style film one might initially compare it to the likes of 'The Social Network' which follows a similar approach to people who have changed the world of technology.
Starting off with Ashton Kutcher playing Jobs, it was well cast in relation to physical appearance. Kutcher and the other cast members look uncannily like the real people giving it an air or realism. Kutcher seems to embody Jobs, recreating his wardrobe, walk and mannerisms. In fact, one enjoyment of the film is not just watching the action play out but noticing the change from hippy-esque clothing to Jobs' stereotypical turtleneck, jeans and sneakers combination.
What I did not expect going into the film was learning that Jobs was not the nicest of men. Yes, in industries such as the emerging computer one, you would have to be persistent and tough to succeed. However, the portrayal of Jobs goes beyond being a cunning salesman but to a narcissistic person with an explosive temper. This revelation compared to Jobs during his very publicized discussions on his new products seems to juxtapose each other. Was the film playing up his temper or during his public appearances, did he simply put on a calm facade? The mild mannered man telling us about his latest product to one who screams threats to Bill Gates on the phone makes the audience question his personality.
In fact, some scenes in the film seemed to have been put there for the sole purpose of making people dislike him. For example, towards the beginning of the film, Jobs is seen cheating on his girlfriend with a girl he just met. One could brush that off as him being a carefree young man, something that I'm sure does not shock people. But then it goes one step further when it is revealed that his girlfriend is pregnant and he accuses her of cheating on him and therefore the child is not his. The icing on the cake in the scenario is that he throws her out and rejects every plea for him to be part of his daughters life. No one can truly judge a single mans judgement but the film certainly doesn't aim to show the good side of Jobs but rather the harsh and quite negative one.
Although the film was a hefty 125 minutes long it did not come across as a smooth progression of his life. From the film starting with the unveiling of the iPod, the average movie goer might assume that the narrative would go full circle showing his life until that point. Yet, the movie is made in such a way that it feels like a combination of short stories of Jobs' life strung together with the overhanging knowledge of him creating Apple and its resulting products. Initially the film flows along as we watch how Apple was founded from the concept of the computer to actually marketing it. But once he is ousted from the company the film transforms to show sometimes random clips of his life. For example, a scene further into the film shows Jobs now with two infant children in a new house talking about a meeting. Next thing you know, his daughter who last we knew of, he rejected, is sleeping on his couch. The only interaction between the two of them that we are privy to is him asking her if she wants breakfast. And as soon as she is introduced, she is forgotten. Yes this clip is all we needed to know that he decided to have Lisa be part of his life but it certainly feels like it was thrown in there.
There are many scenes that feel placed in the film just to both add minutes to the film and make sure a small part of Jobs' life was touched on. When it shows Jobs starting his new company 'Next' it does tell the audience what he was doing between his time at Apple. But the short mention of this adds no more information than the name of the company and what it did. Apart from that it really does not add anything significant to the narrative.
Lastly, starting the film with the introduction of the iPod I, like most, assume that whether it returns to that particular scene or something along the lines, that is how the film will end. But when the story goes from Jobs in a sound booth saying an inspirational speech to a black screen with 'Steve Jobs 1955-2011' I was totally taken off guard. I do not understand the mindset that the director Joshua Michael Stern had to think that it would be a good place to end the film. Perhaps it was because they did not want to exceed 2 hours, or that he assumed that the audience are knowledgeable enough about Jobs to fill in the blanks, I don't know. All I know is that the ending left me with an annoyed and uncomfortable feeling. I personally know very little about Jobs so I don't know what happened between his first macbook and iPod. Also but thrusting this unresolved ending on me left me confused wondering if they are going to try squeeze a Jobs 2 on us to fill in the blanks. Considering the 2 hour film was quite slow with random parts I believe it could have easily gotten rid of some random scenes, trimmed a bit and then have enough time for the story to reach the iPod.
Yes, this film did give great insight about the internal struggles he faced within his own company from being ousted or having his visions questioned. But to me it turned a man who is beloved by many due to his creativity to showing this angry man who couldn't work with others. I unfortunately was disappointed in the film considering all the hype, but perhaps it is because I am not an Apple user in any shape or form and therefore knew nothing about Jobs.
Now I ask myself: does this film taint Jobs' image, distorting it from a loved genius to a self-centered, angry man?
In my opinion, the film detracts from Jobs' creative genius by showing him shouting or angry for a large portion of the film. Had Stern balanced this anger with more mild and upbeat scenes of his life it might have been overlooked or accepted, but the high volume of 'angry Jobs' made me see the man as a different person and did not make him a technological martyr like I thought they would.