How I Live Now

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I think all the faults I could find with How I Live Now stem from the position of my perception and not from the film itself. And faults aside, it starts from a position of strength by blaring Amanda Palmer‘s Do It With A Rockstar over the opening credits, which was always going to win me over. Anyway, the story…

Saoirse Ronan plays Daisy (or Elizabeth), a surly city-chick from New York sent to the British countryside to stay with her aunt and cousins for the summer. She perceives it as being ditched, making room in her father’s house for his new wife and young child, and so (understandably) arrives with a massive chip on her shoulder. Her negativity is slowly worn down by her relentlessly positive younger cousins, all of whom are determined to enjoy all of the joys the countryside has to offer. She’s most effectively won over by the strong, silent cousin Edmund, to who she takes an unspoken shine from the first minute. Hovering in the background is an indeterminate threat, which suddenly comes crashing into the forefront when a country picnic gets hit by a nuclear winter from a massive attack on London. Martial law is declared and the children are whisked away from their country home and split up with the boys taken one way and the girls another. Daisy and Edmund promise to escape and make their way back to the house they’d been sharing and… well, let’s leave it there…

The film is shot through with the overpowering emotions felt during the teenage years, along with the absolute certainty of the right thing to do which I doubt many people feel all that regularly once they hit their 20s and beyond, and as such I can see how much more the film may have appealed to me when I was that age or, to an even greater extent, to teenage girls. Watching as an adult it’s difficult to view without seeing through the naivety of the decision making, without tutting or adding your own soundtrack of “Why didn’t you do…”, but that’s not to complain about the film.

The film is beautifully made, shot through with true characters – and it’s important to point out that all the decisions these children make totally ring true with who they are painted to be – and an uncomfortable feeling of authenticity. The foreshadowing is done perfectly, never truly drawing attention to the threats that exist in the background while equally never letting them disappear, and there are some genuinely terrifying moments.

The film has struggled at the box office but I can easily imagine it having a long life at home and being discovered by a new generation of teenagers each year.

B

Film length: 1 hour 41 minutes
Feels like: 1 hour 40 minutes

What In God’s Name, by Simon Rich

This is a book cover. The book cover to What In God's Name. It's the UK cover. It's a lot better than the US cover. Trust me.

This is a book cover. The book cover to What In God’s Name. It’s the UK cover. It’s a lot better than the US cover. Trust me.

I rarely write posts about books because I rarely read anything that’s current. I might stock up on books as they come out but the order in which I read them is almost entirely on whim and often a reaction against whatever I have read before. However, I have just finished reading something a) good and b) recent so I thought it was worth a quick post…

People say that there aren’t any good romantic comedies anymore. Well, OK, I say it. Comedy is much harder than drama. If you right something that’s kinda gripping, kinda suspenseful, then it’ll probably do OK as a drama. If you right something that’s kinda funny, kinda witty, then that’s generally not good enough when it comes to comedy. Added to which, to be a really good comedy you have to have a pretty decent plot to go along with the jokes.

What In God’s Name, by Simon Rich (published in 2012, that’s how up to date I am!), offers a new twist on the romantic comedy, with two stories playing out simultaneously. The first is in the corridors of Heaven Inc, where Craig works as an angel in the Miracles Department. It’s Craig’s job to make little miracles happen all the time. These may be letting a kid catch a foul ball in a baseball match or helping an old woman in Belgium catch a bus – things we would never perceive as miracles but which enhance our lives nonetheless.

God, Heaven Inc’s CEO, has grown bored of earth. Originally the planet was set up as somewhere to harvest xenon (over 70 of Heaven Inc’s 84 floors are set up to aid this process), but as God grew bored he decided to create humans to amuse him. Between bouts of watching TV evangelists and dispatching angels to get Lynyrd Skynyrd back together or help the Yankees win the World Series, God’s attention is waning once again and when he finally decides enough is enough and issues a destruction order in 30 days, Craig takes it upon himself to save the planet and the people he has grown to love helping.

God offers Craig a deal – if he can answer one prayer from the giant stacks that have built up, the planet will be saved. The second story is the series of miracles he must carry out in order to get the humans involved past their fears and into a relationship together.

Rich uses the book to show us how we are often held hostage by our own fears and insecurities, and just how ridiculous that is. It could be seen as a paean to “Seize the Day”, but equally it brings out the romance in the idea that there are people looking out for us. Maybe not all the time (or all that competently), but they are there nonetheless.

The world of Heaven Inc is well realised and believable (or as believable as such a thing can be), and the references to real world events as either miracles or coincidence are nice touches. While rarely laugh out loud funny, every page presents something to smile about. It’s never meant to be anything more than a fun read, and it delivers precisely that while also having a level of depth and consideration which many titles lack. All in all, well worth taking the time to track down.

B+

And here is Simon Rich reader a short story of his that, I suspect, came about when he was writing the book, or perhaps inspired it. Or something. It’s funny, at any rate, and well worth a watch.