How I Live Now (Watashi wa Ikite Ikeru)
Director Kevin Macdonald
Language English
Opens Aug. 30

Being a teen girl and having to endure a summer in the Welsh countryside with relatives who don’t speak American English, where there’s no Wi-Fi, no malls, and everyone eats totally gross things like gluten-containing bread and lactose-containing cheese, well, that’s bad enough, but throw in a nuclear holocaust and it, like, totally sucks. Oh, but there is one older cousin who’s a total hottie who can, like, talk to horses and birds, so that kinda makes it OK; it’s a reason to get up in the morning and put makeup on.

That is basically the premise of “How I Live Now” — director Kevin Macdonald’s adaptation of a young adult novel by Meg Rosoff — and the problems with it should be pretty clear. Saoirse Rohan is usually a reliable actress, but the snotty teen she plays here (looking like a member of The Runaways) is first dislikable, then unbelievable, as she suddenly turns selfless due to “the power of love.” Telling the story of war and civil breakdown entirely through the eyes of kids isn’t a bad idea, and “How I Live Now” has a few powerful moments, but exactly why the U.K. is gripped by ethnic cleansing is never explained, and the excitement level isn’t up there with “The Hunger Games.”

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