Wearing its YA credentials with a darkly romantic flourish, this uneven adaptation of Meg Rosoff’s apocalyptic 2004 novel gets serious in a hurry, much like its characters. NYC teen Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) arrives at London’s Heathrow in a brood of self-absorption; she passes machine-gun-armed sentries and you can tell this is a delicate future moment. Soon enough, her brittle exchanges with rural British cousins are interrupted by a quickly darkened sky and falling ash.
How I Live Now goes to that nuclear nightmare, and Ronan, who can’t hide her smarts even when the role isn’t as good as the one she had in Atonement, makes a feast of the journey, zagging from obnoxious and Lohanesque to fragile and courageous in a fleetly paced plot. A desperate let’s-love-while-we-can sex scene with strapping Edmond (George MacKay) isn’t nearly as affecting as shots of corpse piles and martial-law-ruled work camps. But Ronan’s spin on a Katniss-like defender is redemptive.
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