Lady Bird (2018)
Starring Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts and Timothée Chalamet.
Directed by Greta Gerwig.
Oh this film ticked so many boxes for me! Above all, it was created by the wonderful female mind of Greta Gerwig, someone who has come a long way from her co-starring role in the remake of Arthur, but after seeing Francis Ha, there was no doubt this film wouldn’t be brilliant. I put emphasis on female because yes, Gerwig was the first female Director nominated at the Oscars in something like 5 or 6 years. You can tell this film has been her baby, and she smashed it.
Lady Bird is about 17-year-old Christine McPherson, who is frustrated and bored in her Catholic high school in a small town in Sacramento, California. She aspires to attend an arts college in New York, but her family can only really afford the local college, much to the quiet heartache of her out-of-work dad, Larry. Like any teenager who is starting to discover their own mind, Christine develops her own phase and insists that her family, along with everyone else, call her ‘Lady Bird’ (her self-declared given name as it was “given to me by me”) and treats her parents, brother, friends and teachers with an only-at-17 sense of spirited narcissism.
For me, the heart of the film lies not so much in the relationship of Lady Bird and her mother Marion, but in the space that divides them. It’s a space that takes it in turns to be dark, hilarious, raw, cruel and tender. Few films have so precisely prodded the ins and outs of a typical mother-teenage daughter relationship, and as a result I’m sure it’s a film many can relate to in one way or another. This very tone is set in the opening scene when, unable to articulate herself during a fight about college, Lady Bird throws herself out of her mother’s moving car instead. For all its seriousness, it’s also hilarious.
It’s also a real coming of age movie. I definitely laughed the whole way through mainly because I sooo understood Lady Bird and her constant internal battle with all her teenage conflicts. The other usual milestones are set up – losing your virginity – “I was on top! Who the fuck is on top the first time?” Lady Bird says. I thought of my best friend in this moment as I could just see her saying something so similar and us both laughing about it. There’s also breaking up with your first boyfriend, fancying the coolest guy in school and wishing him to feel the same way, and losing your best friend over something so trivial (again, we’ve all been there). While all are entirely typical teen rituals, writer-director Greta Gerwig tells them anything but ordinarily.
It’s hilarious and painfully beautiful. It’s the details that make this not your average teenage drama, pivoting on a seminal issue or moral or moment. It’s the thousands of tiny moments that sometimes mean everything and sometimes mean nothing but most often, they mean just something. The moments that shape us into ourselves — the definition and sharp lines emerging alongside adulthood.
The skill of both Gerwig’s storytelling and Saoirse Ronan’s acting is ensuring Lady Bird never loses her likeability. I remember thinking during it, how do casting directors get it so right? Ronan absolutely understood Lady Bird, and I can only imagine the relief this provided Gerwig with. Her affectations and arrogance are tempered by self-deprecation and rivers of charm. You sense she’s still waiting for her life to begin, still choosing who she should be, afraid of being just an average middle-class girl, with average grades and an average life. But what she doesn’t realise is she’s already being who she is meant to be and that one day, when the pain and rituals of being 17 are over, she’ll just be left with warmth, wonder and wit – the very things Lady Bird delivers in bulk. The rest of it will just be a beautiful memory, utter sweetness remembered for always.
If you haven’t watched it yet, you’ll find yourself saying “ahh I remember those days” so many times. For me, it was quite nostalgic and actually made me miss being a teenager. Adult life has many more opportunities, but there’s nothing like the joys and freedom of teenage hood, and feeling like running out of shampoo or a guy not fancying you is your biggest worry to deal with.