Funny, fresh and well acted, Catherine Called Birdy is a joyous and cute flick that conveys themes of feminism and has a blast in the process.
WRITTEN BY BECCA JOHNSON / OCTOBER 10, 2022
Directed by Lena Dunham (Girls) and starring young Bella Ramsey (Game of Thrones) in the lead role, Catherine Called Birdy is a coming-of-age tale set in Medieval England. We follow Birdy as she does all she can to avoid the arranged marriages her Father attempts to map out for her, in order to gain more wealth and a comfortable life for his daughter.
The standout feature of this new Amazon Prime Original is its performances. Bella Ramsey is cute, quirky and hilarious as Birdy, captivating her audience from the get-go. It's hard not to smile whilst she's on screen, giving snappy sarcastic one liners and doing everything in her power to put off her suitors. In the Father role is Andrew Scott (1917), who is terrific as always. He's an angry individual who doesn't seem to have his daughters best interests at heart; he isn't always likeable, but Scott definitely is. Other notable performances are delivered by Billie Piper (Doctor Who), Joe Alwyn (The Favourite) and Dean-Charles Chapman (1917) to name a few. The cast work well both independently and together.
Another aspect that Dunham hit the nail on the head with is the humour. Catherine Called Birdy is tremendously funny in a charming and sweet way, it's coming-of-age aspect elevating this. A lot of the humour comes from Birdy herself, in both Ramsey's line delivery and the characters naïve nature. The storyline lends itself well to a comedic approach, an approach that we don't often see alongside the theme of arranged marriage; it surprisingly works well. As the plot progresses, we see Birdy learn a lot about family, love, friendship, puberty and everything that comes with becoming a lady. With it's relatively low stakes, well written humour and likeable lead, Catherine Called Birdy has a lot of heart behind it that'll make you laugh, smile, and make you think back to your younger days when you knew less about the world.
Unfortunately, the Medieval setting isn't always believable. Though the costume and set-design is pleasing on the eye, it feels like design. Whether it's intentional or not, it often feels like watching a pantomime with actors dressed in costume, rather than an immersive realistic Medieval tale. The choice of including modern music was an odd one that didn't always work, as it often takes you out of the movie and once again, stops it from feeling believable and immersive. It's modern take on Medieval ideals is a whole lot of fun, and definitely a unique way to explore the much loved coming-of-age theme, but unfortunately it lacks that believability that allows you to fully sink into it.
On the whole, Catherine Called Birdy is a fun frolic that's worth checking out from the comfort of your own home. It's performances will grip you, and it's humour will make it stand out. Dunham explores coming-of-age in a way that we haven't seen done very often, and it feels like a unique experience. It could be a lot of fun for the whole family, perhaps resonating with a younger female audience. Bella Ramsey is an absolute star in the making, and the movie is worth watching for her alone; though luckily, there's a whole slew of talented actors on board. It struggles to fully tap into the Medieval setting, and doesn't really teach us much about that time period, but it's a great deal of fun nonetheless.