Last year, I thought there were four films that were a solid 10/10. Already in 2018, I’ve said the same about ‘Three Billboards…’ and ‘The Shape of Water’ and now, in as many months, we’ve been blessed with a third masterpiece. Quite how a film based on something as simple as a seventeen year old growing up ended up this good is down to the incredibly sharp and inspiring script by Greta Gerwig, who also directs this semi-autobiographical story.
Christine “Lady Bird” MacPherson (Saoirse Ronan) spends most of her school life attempting to find herself and get into a college that’ll allow her to escape what she sees as a mundane life in Sacramento. She has to contend with a strenuous but totally believable relationship with her mother. So many coming of age films attempt to be quirky without fleshing out relationships, but the mother/daughter dynamic in ‘Lady Bird’ is one of the strongest to be put on screen in years. They argue, rather aggressively at times, but also knowingly love one another, despite the constant bickering. Lady Bird wants to break free from it all but in doing so is putting more pressure on her entire family.
…the mother/daughter dynamic in ‘Lady Bird’ is one of the strongest to be put on screen in years.
Alongside this, she has trouble knowing where she fits in within her school life. She tries to gain acceptance into different crowds by changing who she really is. It’s something everyone can relate to, either knowing they did the same thing (I’ll admit I did) or knowing old friends who did. Like her home life, this actively affects her relationship with her best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein). While Lady Bird ventures on multiple friendships and relationships, her one with Julie is the beating heart of the film. Their moments together, good and bad, hold everything that’s so realistically about this film together. There’s never a moment where a character speaks like a fictional person. They don’t spell out how they’re feeling in a long winded monologue, it usually comes down to a few words that, in that moment, allow you to understand everything. The scenes at the thrift store are the biggest and best moments of those. You laugh, feel uncomfortable and well up with emotion in a matter of seconds.
Instead of characters becoming side notes, like many female characters have over the years, we get a sense of who everyone truly is.
What’s so exceptional about ‘Lady Bird’ is the fact that every character is a story. Characters like Father Leviatch (Stephen Henderson) only appear in a handful of scenes, yet we get an big insight into his life without anything being revealed. Instead of characters becoming side notes, like many female characters have over the years, we get a sense of who everyone truly is. As I mentioned before, the key to this success is how real everyone feels. You believe in the characters and you relate to their flaws, no matter how subtle.
There is so much praise I can heap onto this so I’m going to try and condense a lot of it otherwise I’ll end up writing a dissertation. Yes, Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf are as perfect as everyone is saying. There may be a whole cast of talent (pick any name from that poster and you can sing their praises till the sun goes down) but these two are stars.
‘Lady Bird’ is one of the most perfect films to be released this decade.
‘Lady Bird’ is one of the most perfect films to be released this decade. The coming of age genre may be blessed with a lot of fantastic films, but like ‘Boyhood’ and ‘Edge of Seventeen’, what elevates this film beyond that is how the story talks to everyone, not just the younger audience members. It doesn’t talk down to anyone or have simple morality like good and bad. It also doesn’t add any drama for the sake of it, it is a story about life and growing up trying to find yourself, nothing more. If a subject matter as simple as that can make you this invested and interested, it’s done something very right.