7:30 PM, 2nd May, 2014
Amidst a worsening political crisis in the wider world, New York teen Daisy (Ronan) is sent to stay with her three cousins and aunt in the English countryside. There, she falls in love with her eldest cousin Eddie (MacKay) and, no sooner than her aunt leaves the four teens alone for ‘a few days’, World War III breaks out; announced with a nuclear bomb detonating over London.
The teens are conscripted into the war effort, but Daisy runs away and navigates the chaotic countryside hoping to be reunited with Eddie.
On spec alone How I Live Now sounds a bit like the Twilight version of The Road. To an extent the analogy is accurate, they’re certainly a mopey enough lot, though How I Live Now is much more mature in the way it plays out than that amalgam sounds like it would. Also in common with the bulk of the Twilight series, the film is very light-on for special effects as it focuses strongly on the character relationships rather than any action going on in the wider world.
The film comes across as a modernised version of the ‘Kids get sent to the countryside during World War II’ trope, which is surprisingly relatable even if farfetched.
9:21 PM, 2nd May, 2014
The Lim family decides to take on a maid to help with both their housework and the care of their young son, Jiale. Teresa is a Filipino, and this new job is a chance at a better life. After a rocky start, Teresa and Jiale form a unique bond, which is threatening to the boy’s mother. All this is set amongst the Asian Financial Crisis (AFC) of 1997, which eventually starts to affect the parents.
Director Anthony Chen won the Camera d’Or at Cannes last year for this film, a prize awarded to a first-time feature-length filmmaker (Australian Warwick Thornton won the same prize a few years ago for Samson and Delilah). It was also Singapore’s official entry for the Foreign Language Oscar this year, no mean feat for a country not renowned for its film industry.
It’s a film that has heart, as well as providing a glimpse into the struggles of the AFC. It is so well-acted and shot, it could rival most mainstream fare for its professionalism. If you’re looking for proof that our geographical region has much cinematic talent, then come along for this slice-of-life drama.
(P.S. the title refers to the province of The Philippines that the maid comes from. Small detail, but I was curious after first seeing the movie myself.)