Kevin Macdonald is one of the most exciting British directors having brought us a mix of live action and documentary movies in recent years.
His live-action work has seen him deliver The Last King of Scotland as well as State of Play, while his documentary work as also been of the highest standard with Touching The Void and Marley.
He is back in the director’s chair this week with How I Live Now, which is a big-screen adaptation of the novel of the same name by Meg Rosoff.
Speaking exclusively to FemaleFirst the director revealed that he was drawn to How I Live Now because he was keen on making a teen movie like no other.
“I wanted to make a teen movie that was very different from other teen movies, and it wasn't an America idea of what teenage ness was like. I broke some of the taboos of what the glossy, American teen movie is like.
“I was interested in making a film with a female protagonist because I had never done that before. I couldn't have done better than Saoirse Ronan as she is just brilliant.”
How I Live Now is a unique teen movie; it starts out as a tale of young love before descending into a world of war and survival.
This is a coming of age film that is gritty and dark as much as it is poignant and beautiful, and Macdonald admits that this sudden change of direction in the story was an element of the book that he really enjoyed.
“That is one of the things that I loved about the book and was one of the things that we tried to imitate in the film. I suppose I wanted to recreate the sense of shock that I felt when I read the book.
“For the first thirty minutes of the film I play with audience's expectations and play with some of the traits of the classic teen movie. It's not quite naturalistic and it is love out of the blue, and it is all quite heightened and poetic; these are all things that you may have seen before in other teen movies.
“Then suddenly 'wham' out of left field comes this plot development, which takes it in a very different way. I am a filmmaker that likes great narrative, and I think that this is a great narrative and a fascinating story. But it also has this fairytale quality to it; it feels like a modern-day fairytale in many ways.”
How I Live Now sees the director work with Oscar-nominated actress Saoirse Ronan for the first time, as she takes on the central role of Daisy.
Macdonald admits to us that it was a long and arduous search to find the right actress; he started looking in America at established and unknown teenage actors. However, the director believes that this movie would not have worked without the talents of Ronan in this central role.
“Initially I was going to cast an American. I looked in America for many months and saw thousands of girls, but I just couldn't find anyone who was right. I looked at well known teenage actresses as well as lots of unknowns.
“I couldn't find someone who had 'the edge' and who could express that teenage angst. Saoirse is not a very angsty person, but she is a brilliant actress that she knew how to access that.
“I also needed someone who could express an awful lot none verbally as this is not a very verbal script; particularly, the second half as there are a lot of long silences. Saoirse's face speaks volumes really. I think that if I hadn't had an actress of the quality of Saoirse, then this film wouldn't have worked.”
Macdonald admits that the role of Daisy couldn’t be more different from Saoirse herself, and he really had to push her to be more of a ‘bitch’ in some of the scenes as they tried to get the darker side of this character right.
“I was always telling her to be tougher and be more of a bitch; that was my main direction. I think Saoirse's natural positioning is to be very sympathetic and sweet; this character is not like that.
“In those scenes where she has to shout at the little girl and say 'so you want to see your brothers alive again?' Saoirse is so not like that as a person, and I think she found that quite tough. She can do anything.”
How I Live Now is a movie that is winning over the critics and is set to be one of the must see films of the autumn. And Macdonald admits that he is pleased that people don’t quite know what to make of the movie.
“I am pleased that the film seems to be being received in a 'not quite sure what to make of it' way; to me is good as it is a bit different. Hopefully, it is not just another teen movie.”
We are going to see Macdonald continue to move between live action films and documentary projects in the future. He has already completed work on documentary Christmas In A Day and is filming thriller Black Sea.
How I Live Now is out now. Read our How I Live Now review.