Greta Gerwig’s quirky coming of age film ‘Lady Bird’ featuring Irish star Saoirse Ronan, is an absolute gem in American indie cinema: true-to-life, endearing, and utterly hilarious.
Lady Bird sits somewhere between Boyhood and Napoleon Dynamite, telling the story of misfit teenager Christine ‘Lady Bird’ McPhereson, who fights the pressure of conformity in school and at home. Although conventional, the plot remains engaging, and by refraining from dramatizing the story - with true-to-life events and rapid scene cuts preventing any unnecessary prolongation - realism is achieved to its fullest extent. Lady Bird’s achievements are remarkably average: assigned ‘chorus member’ for the theatre play, scraping a ‘B’ in Maths and receiving ‘waiting list’ status for her college applications. Even her first love, Danny, is extremely average looking. Instead of the standard cinematic storyline of the extraordinary happening to the ordinary, Lady Bird embraces the ordinary happenings to the ordinary. Yet it does so with natural wit, adding a fantastic element of comedy throughout the film.
But the themes reach deeper than high-school drama. Central to the story is Lady Bird’s relationship with her mother. Beautifully captured and remarkably relatable, Lady Bird is exploring her ‘free spirit’ personality, but her mother is the nagging, criticising, lecturing adversary. But she does so with warmth and love, and Lady Bird finds herself torn between pleasing her mother, and following her rebellious and artistic tendencies. Their arguments are reminiscent of many a young woman’s youth. And the clueless father who acts as a mediator, playing solitaire on the family computer, speaks the words that ring clear in my own head, as well as many others: ‘you and your mother both have very strong personalities’.
Through the cringe-worthy moments of regret and the wonderful characterisation, particularly in the case of pretentious, self-proclaimed anarchist Kyle (we all know a Kyle), we join Lady Bird on her journey of self-discovery, whilst reminded of the very same journey we once undertook ourselves. A joyous depiction of the transformation into adulthood, with formidable acting from Saoirse Ronan as Lady Bird and Laurie Metcalf as Lady Bird’s mother, Lady Bird will have audiences leaving the cinema with a warm nostalgia for home.
The pure simplicity and effortless hilarity testifies to the film’s triumph, particularly compared to Black Panther, which although celebrating Marvel’s fantastic political revolution in the portrayal of black and female characters, is comparably unthoughtful and unimaginative in dialogue and plot. With all of its well-deserved Oscar nominations for female artists, Lady Bird succeeds in depicting modern gender representations whilst maintaining originality and realism.