Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Beanie Feldstein, Lucas Hedges
Director: Greta Gerwig
In 2002, a teen (Ronan) who prefers to be called Lady Bird is in the last year of High School, and struggling with her identity and her future. While she is highly creative and intelligent, she doesn’t have the best grades, and her mother (Metcalf) discourages her from expecting to get into university. Along with her best friend, Julie (Feldstein), she speaks out, tries out for drama, and generally makes a mess of things, including her romantic relationships.
Though the film largely follows Lady Bird through her final year, it’s the story of her complicated relationship with her mother, as well as her own coming of age story, and it’s done in a beautifully restrained way. Metcalf is wonderful as a biting, cynical and acerbic parent who is also frustrated with her difficult daughter and who sometimes seems harsh, and yet often little quiet moments show us that underneath, she really does love her daughter. That complicated central relationship is subtle but is the thread that draws us through this story.
Lady Bird herself is quite funny. She takes herself quite seriously, and wants very much to be somebody but doesn’t always go about it the right way. Saoirse Ronan gives a winning and warm performance of teenage angst and awkwardness, as well as the kind of thoughtless outspokenness and drama inherent in that age. She’s really likable and quite hilarious. I often felt sorry for Lady Bird with her relationship with her mother, who clashes with her daughter and loves her, while finding her exasperating.
I also really loved Beanie Feldstein as Julie, her best friend, who is often very funny and sweet. A lovely foil to Lady Birds loud personality.
Greta Gerwig wrote and directed this film, and you can really feel her brave and irreverent handwriting all over it, which is a wonderful thing. This is a startling and refreshing drama, with plenty of warmth and humanity in it’s humour. It’s beautifully lit and shot. And it captures that sense of being seventeen so well, being able to show how heartbreaking first love or trying to fit in can be, whilst also poking gentle fun at the drama and sometimes selfishness of that age too. It has been nominated for a few Oscars this year, and it will be interesting to see how it does during awards season. It’s gentle charms could perhaps be obscured or lost under Oscar hype, but if you like fresh dramas, it’s a charming film.
See It If: hilarious and heartwarming by turns, this coming of age and mother-daughter story is a drama that anyone can enjoy.