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How I Live Now Opens Today! We Got the Goss on the Edgy Film and Killer Soundtrack From Director Kevin Macdonald

How I Live Now Opens Today! We Got the Goss on the Edgy Film and Killer Soundtrack From Director Kevin Macdonald

By Janet Manley

Magnolia Pictures

If you loved Meg Rosoff's book How I Live Now about teen love in a war-torn future, you will LOVE the film adaptation, starring Saoirse Ronan and George McKay, and directed by cinematic heavyweight and endearing sweater-wearer Kevin Macdonald. The film focuses on a super sweet romance between tough-nut American Daisy and her cousin Edmond, after she is sent to her aunt in rural England ahead of World War III. But just as Daisy begins to let down her guard around her cousins—Eddie, young Piper, and Isaac—war breaks out and life turns into a fight for survival, with some heartbreaking twists and turns. Unlike your typical dystopian teen blockbusters, the movie takes a realistic look at the difficulties of becoming intimate with someone, what it means to grow up quickly, and the lasting effects of war.

We spoke with director Kevin Macdonald about his vision for the adaptation, the killer soundtrack, the amazing cast, and how he set about making a film that was actually relevant to teens.

SparkLife: There is a scene early in the film where a bomb goes off in London, hundreds of miles away, that gave us chills. It is the moment that draws a line between "then" and "now" for the characters. What did you set out to do with that scene?

Kevin: I wanted the first half hour of the movie to be about the paradise in the countryside the kids are living in, in a way that the audience would be lulled into a sense of thinking it’s one of those movies where an American girl comes to England and falls in love—and that is what the movie is, but it’s much more than that. I wanted the audience to think it would be a gentle, sweet, romantic film, and then be sideswiped by conflict.

SparkLife: How does the film look at what it's like to be a teenager?  

Kevin: It’s hopefully a more realistic look at what it’s like to be a teenager—including sex, the nature of [Daisy and Eddie’s] relationship, being cousins [who are dating], the swearing, those sort of things. But also the depictions of Daisy and the other characters are much more like the realities of teenagers. The film has slightly fantasy/speculative elements, but it feels grounded in a psychological reality, and I think that’s one of the things that makes Meg Rosoff’s book so powerful and I hope has been translated into the film. I think Meg’s book is very different from [other teen dystopian action novels]. I was trying to make a film that wrenches you, that’s a bit edgier, tougher, more realistic in its depiction of warfare, and I feel like young adults don’t have as much variety or choice [in films]. They might like something a little more edgy, and hopefully I’m providing that for them.

SparkLife: We were blown away by Saoirse's performance. How did you find these incredible actors?

Kevin: I looked a long time to find amateurs, and I looked a long time to find an American girl to play Daisy, but couldn’t find anybody who had the necessary edge, or the acting chops, so I turned to a professional actor who was a year or two older than the character in the book. I suppose I realized how hard it was to find good actors. Saoirse came in to read and she was just fantastic, I mean jaw-dropping.

Saoirse Ronan and George McKay star as cousins who fall in love ahead of World War III

What other characters did you see as really important?

Kevin:I saw Piper's character very much in line with the character in the book, as a representation of sweetness, and innocence, and she’s very funny. She’s vulnerable, and part of Daisy’s journey as a character is about is coming to a place in her life where she can look after Piper, become a mother figure for her and learn to have that responsibility. I think she’s very endearing—that’s one of the things about Piper in the book and the film.

The film's soundtrack. which is full of indie magic, gives a sense of what is going on inside Daisy's head

The soundtrack does a really great job of helping replace Daisy's narration that we have in the book. How did you find music for the film?

Kevin: The book is written in the first person, so that was one of the challenges for the adaptation: How do you make things that were exterior dramatic? And how do you convey things that were written and narrated by Daisy in the book? We used music and also the sound effects and voice over to get a glimpse inside her mind. Music tells you an awful lot about someone—what they’re listening to, what you would play over them to let you into their inner life. Daisy’s music is quite hard, some indie rock—Amanda Palmer & the Grand Theft Orchestra and Daughter are on the soundtrack.

And the music of the cousins and the family is folk music, really music inspired by the folk culture of England, so people like Nick Drake and Fairport Convention. Our composer Jon Hopkins designed these very fragile, beautiful melodies—it's electronica, but in a very unusual way. It’s very unusual for musicians to combine electronica and a really melodic sense. And the last song, "Garden Heart," was written by the artist formerly known as Bat for Lashes, Natasha Kahn, a great indie singer-songwriter and performed with Jon Hopkins.

(Saoirse stars in the music video, and Natasha says she cried "like four times" watching the film.)

Okay, no more teasing, here is the trailer for How I Live Now...

The film opens across the U.S. today, and you can also download it from iTunes and watch it through video on demand. Ohhh!

Are you ready for How I Live Now the movie?!

Topics: Books, Entertainment
Tags: celebrities, books we love, music, films, saoirse ronan, kevin macdonald, how i live now, bat for lashes, meg rosoff

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About the Author
Janet Manley

Janet is the offspring of a mid-sized kangaroo and a stately gum tree. She grew up under a hole in the ozone layer, which probably means she can survive in outer space. She tweets @janetmanley

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