Lady Bird, written and directed by Greta Gerwig, is wonderful and moving in its simplicity. There’s something so real and so magnetic about this film. It’s eclectic and charming selection of characters pull you in; it’s simple, yet engaging little story charms you, and everything has an air of purity to it that makes it utterly enjoyable. It offered a host of emotions to dance between and it left me with a smile on my face by the end. This is a review I’m going to enjoy writing, because there’s nothing better than getting to gush about a film that sidles its way into your heart. So, let’s get to it.
We follow Lady Bird McPherson – played by Saoirse Ronan – who desperately wants to escape the humdrum surroundings of Sacramento, California and explore her artistic side. But before she can do that, she has a few more young adult hurdles to contend with. Whether it’s academic struggles, personal hardships or an overbearing parent, Lady Bird will tackle what all teenagers do, but she’ll do it in her own particularly unique ways.
It’s in the brilliantly nuanced set of characters (both primary and supporting characters) that I gained the most joy from Lady Bird; each of them feeling defined and full of depth, despite only having a few obvious qualities. And of course, Lady Bird herself gave me a fair amount of that joy and depth. At first, I was concerned that her attitude might make her irritating or unapproachable; an experience where I would struggle to find a connection with the main character, and thus begin to shut myself off from the film. Pretty much by the end of the opening scene, the complete opposite was the case, and that never changed.
Her journey was one I was eager and happy to be a part of. It’s in no way unique (it’s a journey that nearly every teenager has to summit) but there’s something about Lady Bird and the people around her that made it so approachable and inviting.
In her journey, we explore the trials of being a young, misunderstood person. Lady Bird is different. She doesn’t fit the mould. Her creative side outweighs her academic side. Dancing and singing are far more appealing and understandable to her, than math or history. I can somewhat relate; with my creative side always being the one that was in want of being fed, rather than my academic side (though I do love history).
But in those attempts to be who she is and explore what interests her, we get to see her take on life and all its possibilities. On the one hand, she’s young. She has the whole world before her, where she can do anything and go anywhere; begin to shape who she will be. It’s during this time that she begins that process for real, as high school is ending and life altering decisions need to be made. But of course, with that comes tectonic level shifts of fear and doubt. What if she fails? What if it doesn’t work out? These are all struggles that in one way or another, we faced when we were young. So, despite Lady Bird’s life being very different from mine (where she lives, who she is personally, her gender, etc.) I still found it really easy to relate to her and her story. It made sense to me; it connected me to the film and it made me care. It made for an experience that I never tiered of being a part of. I sat there (usually with a smile across my face) and took in this simple, beautiful little film.
What writer, director Greta Gerwig has done: is tap into exactly what it’s like when you’re young. A lot of films that tackle this point in time for young people don’t always nail what it feels like. There’s a disconnect. You get a film set in modern time but with out-of-date, antiquated sensibilities and ways of thinking. That’s not the case for Lady Bird.
And I think there’s no greater example of Greta Gerwig tapping into something familiar and true, than the scenes between Lady Bird and her mum, Marion McPherson – played by Laurie Matcalf. The dialogue in these scenes is harsh and tough to hear, but it is honest in its portrayal. Especially at that young, unsure time in teenagers lives, parents and kids talk to each other in a way that has never been the case before and will never be again. But I remember those emotionally charged conversations with my mother. I remember looking back and regretting how I spoke to her and wanting to apologise. The relationship between Lady Bird and her mum drew me in, as I understood more than any other aspect in the film. Also, because the scenes between the two characters were always a sight to see and hear. Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf give their all in the scenes, and they were performances that I fully believed in.
Speaking of great performances: Lady Bird is a film that boasts a fantastic selection of characters. Whether it was Lady Bird’s endearing father, Larry McPherson – played by Tracy Letts – or it was the football coach who had been asked to direct the school play in his own unique way – there was a constant assembly line offering new and interesting people.
What I found surprising about the supporting cast of characters was that despite their characteristics being limited, I still felt it really easy to get a full grasp of who they were, beyond what the film had shown me. These are people who make sense; you can imagine who they are beyond the little snippet you get, and you can go onto build out a more complete picture in your head. I think that’s in part because of how familiar the film feels overall (a point that is a constant in this review). Either through personal experience or having seen films similar to this one, you (and I) are able to take that knowledge and fill in the blanks. It was never something I felt forced to do, it was just something I was happy to do, as it only increased my engagement with the film.
I’m also surprised at how adept the film is at juggling its many nuanced characters as this is a film that moves at quite a fast pace. It has a fast, momentum-filled editing style to it that always keeps things moving and never allows for any significant lulls. It also packs together a lot of information, but it never felt like too much – I never felt like I was being cheated of anything necessary. I was fully attentive throughout the 96-minute film and never found myself seeking out the end. I was forever happy to be sitting there enjoying every second of the film.
The only issue the pacing caused: was that it would sometimes result in the various tones of the film clashing. Going from a light-hearted, smile-inducing scene, straight into an emotionally intense moment that leaves you staggered, was a transition that was to overt to ever feel natural.
But what Greta Gerwig has put together is a joyous film. I have loved her as an actress (and I hope she still plans to act), but I’m also really excited to see what she will go onto do as a director. Lady Bird is a strong opening for sure. I mean, it’s not like Lady Bird is a technical wonder that pushes the boundaries of cinema or is even original in its concept. But what Gerwig has created is a film that feels fresh, fun and touching. I smiled throughout Lady Bird; I laughed countless times, and I was moved by its emotional honesty. It was an effortlessly enjoyable experience to have.
I fully recommend, Lady Bird. I was dubious as to if this film was best picture worthy, but now having seen it, I do think it is deserving of the nomination (just perhaps not the win). Either way, this is certainly a charming little film that is well worth seeing.
I’d love to know what you thought of Lady Bird, and my review of it. So please leave any opinions or feedback, etc. in the comments section down below. I’d also really appreciate it if you were to give both my blog and my Twitter – @GavinsRamblings – a wee follow. But I’ll wrap things up now by saying thank you to you for taking the time to read my review, and I hope you have the most fantastic of days!