BY BECCA JOHNSON NOVEMBER 16, 2023
"Easily puts a smile on your face"
In 2023, especially after the release of Barbie and her Narnia Netflix movie being announced, Greta Gerwig is a household name. Barbie dominated the box office and captured our hearts, and her adaptation of Little Women is widely regarded as the best to exist, with it's phenomenal performances and focus on feminism. In 2017, Gerwig released her solo directorial debut Lady Bird, a coming-of-age dramedy centring on a high school student who dreams of escaping from her family by going to college in New York, much to the disapproval of her mother. It gained critical acclaim upon release, and the love for it has only grown over the years. When looking back on Lady Bird, it's clear to see that Gerwig was worth keeping an eye on and was destined for great things.
The coming-of-age sub-genre is full of greats, yet Lady Bird truly manages to stand out from the crowd. The first reason for this is it's star-making performance from lead Saoirse Ronan. Not only did the movie fully ensure Gerwig's place on the map, but gave Ronan a chance to deliver her best work since Atonement. Her comedic timing is excellent, her teenage naivety is genuine, and her portrayal of an individual who is curious about the world and believes she is destined to leave her small town is masterful. By changing her name from 'Christine' to 'Lady Bird' at the start of the film, we quickly learn that she is an unsatisfied individual who wants more. She is fully believable at all times, making Lady Bird an extremely likeable character despite her occasionally bossy, moody and selfish temperament. Beanie Feldstein is also great in the role of Lady Bird's best friend Julie, the pair working so well together to portray a genuinely lovely friendship. They have the funniest interactions, even when they're disagreeing, and it does enough to make you look back on your teenage friendships and cherish them. The cast also includes the likes of Timothee Chalamet, Lucas Hedges and Tracy Letts.
When Saoirse Ronan isn't stealing the show, Laurie Metcalf is. Playing the role of Marion McPherson, Lady Bird's mother, she is utterly superb. Her love for her daughter is clear, but she doesn't have a great way of showing it, and Metcalf captures all the complexities of having a teenage daughter with ease. She wants the best for her, but she also wants Lady Bird to understand the uncertainty of her future, the difficulties of the world, and how she may not appreciate what she is so desperate to get rid of... home, and family. Of course, the ending of the movie proves her mother right, as Christine 'Lady Bird' McPherson feels lost in the big city as she wanders around feeling lonely, confused and looking for home comforts. However, the script and the performances do well to show us that there is no right and wrong here, no hero and no villain; both ladies have made mistakes, said things they didn't mean and forgot to put their love for each other first. Lady Bird is a selfish rebel who puts herself first too often, and Marion is a bad communicator with high expectations and at times an unwelcoming nature. Lady Bird is one of the best, realest explorations of the mother daughter relationship ever put to screen.
The approach Lady Bird takes with it's storytelling is slice of life at it's finest. It doesn't have a climax, or a huge dramatic event that changes the trajectory of the film, we are simply watching Lady Bird navigate her final year of college. By doing so, the script allows us to focus on the smaller things, the things that are so important as we're growing up, that we'll remember forever – it's the smaller events that have the biggest impact, and Gerwig knows that. We see Lady Bird get her first boyfriend, endure her first break-up, fall out with her bestie, make up with her bestie, try to become popular, her first time getting drunk, getting high, losing her virginity, going to college, getting a summer job, falling for the edgy musician, arguing with her mother, arguing with her mother again, realising her family are struggling, learning what it means to become an adult. Everything we see on screen is relatable, and every theme, idea and emotion is thoroughly explored. Gerwig leaves no stone unturned when diving into the complexities of being young and transitioning into adulthood.
Tying everything into a neat little bow is it's comedy. It takes a subtler approach than what we are used to in this genre, but for the slice of life style, it's the most fitting approach. With witty one-liners, hilarious teenage arguments and naively funny dialogue that feels personal, it's an incredibly uplifting and heart warming watch. Lady Bird undoubtedly has moments that'll make you feel emotional, and you may even shed a tear, but at it's core is so much heart, and a real look into the importance of family and the bond between mother and daughter. It often feels like a warm hug, it easily puts a smile on your face and is guaranteed to make you laugh.