Saoirse Ronan is brilliant in this semi-autobiographical masterpiece by first-time director Greta Gerwig
There are always two sides to adolescence – the one you remember and the one you see in movies. It’s rare for any film to mirror real life, mostly because it’s a messy and often times incomprehensible part of who we are as people. However, here enters Greta Gerwig’s compelling coming-of-age story. With Lady Bird, the famous saying “life imitates art far more than art imitates life” is no longer applicable.
Her mother is a picture perfect monster with a warm side. Her daughter is a self-entitled brat that just wants to explore. Together, Christine or her preferred given name, Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan), and Marion (Laurie Metcalf) have no doubt a rough mother-daughter relationship but what they both seem to miss is the fact that they are exactly alike.
Lady Bird is a film about a lot of things. But at its heart, it’s a film about a teenager on the cusp of adulthood. It’s true that many films have tackled this subject matter prior. However, Christine is far from the teen girls we are used to seeing in these type of movies. She’s a spunky and opinionated young girl that doesn’t always make the best decisions. Yet, through Saoirse Ronan’s powerhouse performance, her character is still extraordinarily likable and compelling. It’s a character that still has a lot of learning left to do and as a viewer, you want to follow her journey. Clocking in at only 93 minutes, it’s a film that could have easily been extended without much protest.
However, the amount of content we get in Lady Bird shouldn’t be overlooked. There are moments of pure melancholia, where I found myself quite sad. On the other hand, there are genuine comedic moments that made me laugh my butt off. Nevertheless, probably the most surprising parts, are the moments that don’t usually get portrayed in films such as these. There are numerous times where our character finds herself in awkward situations, and there isn’t necessarily a satisfying ending as we come to expect from these types of films. But it’s these messy parts, whether it be the characters’ identities or their awkward situations, that make this low-budget film such a masterpiece. Director Greta Gerwig isn’t intimated by the parts of our lives that don’t fit and why should she? These types of moments are very much part of our lives, and Gerwig’s inclusion of them makes Lady Bird one of the year’s most realistic film.
As a result, Lady Bird doesn’t have that glossy Hollywood finish that most films tend to have. It feels like an honest portrayal of a young girl trying to find her spot in a world where it isn’t always peaches and rose. And, yet this type of representation is anything but easy. Gerwig’s ability to direct in such a way that feels intimate and honest is a true testament to her talent. Her direction is done in such a way that makes this story feel raw and barebone. She isn’t interested in hiding the gloomy parts and delivers a big beautiful exaggerated story filled with success. Instead, her personal connection to the story keeps it extremely relatable and personal, and in this space, she’s able to deliver a story with so much empathy.
Like I said before, Lady Bird is about many different things. It explores Christine’s rocky relationship with her mother but it also explores classism and the power of money. Christine’s family isn’t the most well-off and their being is controlled by their lack of funds. In one of the film’s most honest scene, we see Christine lie to her friend about where she lives and through that moment, we see her embarrassment towards her situation but also her need to fit in as a teenage girl. It’s in that type of complexity that Gerwig is able to explore such real issues.
As we follow the life of Christine, we find ourselves in her shoes almost too often. Her ambitions and drive don’t necessarily lead her to greatness, but it’s precisely that realism that makes Lady Bird fly high. It certainly helps that Gerwig has lived through this herself, but you can’t deny her craftsmanship as a director. This is no doubt a passion project for her, and it definitely shows. Lady Bird is a personal masterpiece, one that does everything right. It’s a film that oozes empathy, compassion, and ambition. A film that will no doubt skyrocket Gerwig as one of the directors to watch for years to come.
Lady Bird came out on November 3.