By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin November 8, 2013 at 12:00AM
The future looks bleak—yet again—in this adaptation of Meg
Rosoff’s young adult novel, which hasn’t much to recommend it except the
presence of Saoirse Ronan in the leading role. Her command of the screen, even
playing a sullen American teenager, almost makes up for director Kevin
Macdonald’s minimalist treatment of a war that forces Ronan and her cousins to
go into survival mode, without grownups around to protect them.
The setting is the English countryside, away from London, where Ronan is forced to bond with her young relatives when the going gets tough. But a handsome neighbor truly captures her heart, and it’s that relationship—tested under fire, as it were—that gives the film a romantic angle along with the suspense of eluding an unnamed enemy.
If I had to describe this movie in one word, it would be “dull.” I had a difficult time getting—and staying—involved. The child actors do a good job, no small feat alongside the experienced Ronan, but as most of the war-related drama takes place off-screen it becomes emotionally (and literally) distant. Perhaps a teenage girl who identifies with the protagonist and shares her moony-eyed interest in the young hero would feel different. Not sharing that point of view, I can’t honestly recommend this picture.