Review: Lady Bird

Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut is a great success, writes

Image: A24/Universal


Director: Greta Gerwig

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts

Length: 1hr 34m

Rating: 15

N.B. This review may contain spoilers.

Lady Bird is a portrait of the ups and downs of adolescence, a picture that captures the transformations of a girl in search of herself. It is one of the best movies in the running for the Oscars, one that will become a cornerstone among the coming of age genre.

Image: A24/Universal

The initial scenario, which looks like a Richard Linklater film, introduces the viewer to a girl from Sacramento, who is finishing her last year at a Catholic high school and is planning her future in college. This girl, Christine McPherson, filled with confidence and self-awareness, goes by the name of  ‘Lady Bird’, a name ‘given to her by herself’. She detests living on ‘the wrong side’, the poor one, of Sacramento. Her mother is a nurse and her dad is an aging man who has just lost his job. Set in 2002, the movie explores this stage of Lady Bird’s life, her hatred for the city, the Catholic environment that entraps her artistic needs, her first love, her friendships and a tense familial situation.

Lady Bird has the structure of an odyssey, before the real odyssey, college, has even begun. This film, by providing a seventeen-year-old’s perspective, is able to emphasize adolescent problems, which are then ridiculed under the lense of a mother who struggles with the problems of daily life. Within the story of Lady Bird there are different subplots – the relationship with her mother, Danny’s homosexuality, her first time with Kyle – that blend Christine’s transformation with the surrounding environment. This is the true strength of the film, to have different perspectives, chaotic yet orderly, kept in the eye of the tempest. This is like Lady Bird herself; she is how an adolescent should be: insecure, curious, a dreamer, but more than anything else in search of themselves. The same Lady Bird, who at first glance seems secure and confident, ends up losing herself in her first love, in her friendships, and in pretending to be someone else.

‘Lady Bird’ is a shield behind which Christine hides her uncertainties, concealing it with the most fragile lie: the claim of knowing ourselves. Nevertheless, during one of the last scenes Christine, who is now in college in New York, introduces herself by her real name. The nickname in fact is a metaphor of her transformation, how her certainties have grown, and how her journey has led her to a new stage of her life. She is not Lady Bird anymore, even if paradoxically she is now ready to wear the ‘Lady Bird’ dress in a new adventure out of Sacramento.

Image: A24/Universal

A magnificent Saoirse Ronan fully inhabits Lady Bird, a storm ready to implode that never quite does. The cast list is bulked out by an outstanding Laurie Metcalf and two rising stars, Timothée Chalamet and Lucas Hedges. Written and directed by Greta Gerwig, former screenwriter and star of some of Noah Baumbach’s projects, Lady Bird is a debut in style, intimate and delicate, funny and sharp. The original soundtrack crafted by Jon Brion, one of the most interesting contemporary composers, adds an intimacy reminiscent of the best road movies. The original music is beautifully merged with songs like ‘Always See Your Face’ by Love and ‘As We Go Along’ by The Monkees.

The movie in its entirety is a mature debut, a fresh film with a great script, an immersive soundtrack and an astonishing cast. It is a film that is able to investigate the reflections of the daily life of a seventeen- year old, a film that makes you laugh and cry. Lady Bird is a profound portrait, characterized by the use of warm colours, fixed with strokes on the canvas.

One comment

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