This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Wesley R. Ball’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Lady Bird: The Last Twenty Minutes
I once was lost, but now am found
'Twas blind but now I see.
There was a period of time recently where I almost never spoke with my parents. I don't know if it was the distance from moving into my own place, or the onset yet unrealized depression, or just life circumstances in general that had caused my tormented mind to become slowly more and more distant from them, but for an extended period of time I became lost in my own distorted reality, away from the comfort and presence of my immediate family. I had already built up some kind of fearful projection of my parents, becoming plagued with thoughts that they secretly were always upset with me because of how much money I've cost them or how much trouble I seem to have been putting them through over my twenty-three years of being alive. A brain surgery at birth can be a traumatic experience, after all. Sometimes there are moments when I wonder what could have been of my family had I not survived that day. I'll admit, there are fleeting moments when I believe that my family would have been better off and, as every other person has at one point in their lives or another, doubted the validity of my parental units' affections.
But if there's one thing that I've learned recently, it's that no matter what horrible thing one might have thought they had done to affect their parents and their lives, the unconditional love that a parent holds for their child is like no other. It comes from that inner and intimate connection that becomes housed within our relationship with them at birth, and it's up to the parents whether to nurture or corrode that connection through their interactions. The finale of Lady Bird is solid proof of that connection, and the never-disappearing affection that a child will bear for a caring parent, no matter how distant they may seem from them.
As Lady Bird is graduating and beginning her final preparations for departure to her esteemed college of choice in New York City, her mother suddenly decides to become distant after discovering she had applied for a faraway college in secret, which distresses Christine to a great extent. Her constant begging and pleading for even a brief visual or auditory response is met with absolutely nothing. This is the shock of a life-changing circumstance for Marion. One of my greatest fears in life has always been that I will be a disappointment to my parents. After leaving college, I was almost certain that they were dismayed at my decision, because what life is there to lead without an educational degree to lean onto? As I would soon learn, there's actually quite a lot in life that one can discover even without the aid of a diploma. That's not to say that college is worthless- on the contrary, it's an endeavor that every well-meaning person should strive for. But it's not the be-all, end-all to having a successful life. I have plenty of family members and I know plenty of people who have been moderately successful in life without a prestigious degree. And to my surprise, I felt more than welcomed back into my home when I arrived back in Ohio. You don't have to be wildly successful to please your parents, and even then you shouldn't feel like you have to make yourself miserable to do so. The unconditional love and support that a parent gives their child is enough proof that is needed that there is so much more to familial acceptance than simple successes or major degrees.
Conversely, Greta Gerwig's intimate display of Marion's overwhelming emotions at the realization of what she has done once she leaves Lady Bird and Larry at the airport to meander around the roadways showcases just how important the turning points in a child's life can be to the parent. When I graduated high school and when I was about to be left in Florida for college, my parents and I had astoundingly emotional moments that were unlike anything I had experienced with them up to that point. It's the feeling of pride that came from my father especially at finally seeing his son succeed forward to the next step in his life. A great parent supports their child in succeeding at their endeavors when that parent knows that it will be beneficial for their child's life and development of a career. Marion's final comprehension of how her daughter is about to leave for a long period of time begins to swell up in her emotions, before finally rushing into the airport.... just barely too late to say goodbye.
But that pride and love is not to be missed by Lady Bird. Various letters that her mother had tried to write to her, and then crumpled up in frustration, are sneaked into Lady Bird's baggage, unknown until unpacking in her apartment. It's here where we see Marion's true self revealed to Lady Bird- that rigid shell of a parent who would constantly argue and pick verbal fights with her went away as Christine begins to see her mother's true inner self and how deeply she really loves and cares about seeing her succeed in life. I only realized this almost too late in my own life, after being plagued with fantasies and thoughts of disappointment and disapproval from my own family, I could find myself calmly reassured by my parents of just how much I would really mean to them. Maybe I didn't get extensive letters from them, but even in the brief moments of interaction I had with them during my time apart, something inside me told me that they still really loved and cared about me. That's how the best parents are to their kids, caring and compassionate even in their absence.
And what of the final scene with Lady Bird entering the cathedral? Being raised in a Catholic school, Christine enters a chapel during a Sunday mass and briefly listens to the choir singing with angelic voices. It's a piece of Sacramento that stays with her in New York City. The overarching theme of her faith is carried with her throughout Lady Bird, and in this final scene we see that it clearly doesn't vacate itself to make room for other habits and vices. This is the pivotal moment for Christine, where she realizes that everything her mother did for her up to that point was all for her own benefit. She even decides to finally drop the given title of Lady Bird in favor of introducing herself to strangers as Christine, her given name. It was given to her by her parents. It's one of the few things that we will always carry with us from our parents even after they're long gone, aside from the limitless knowledge and wisdom they pass along to us over the years. That tender final conversation that Christine carries with her parents' answering machine is one of the most emotional moments in the entire film for me, and it was in that moment that I nearly ran from the theater when I first saw it to call my own mother in assurance that we were still on very good terms. I love you.... Thank you... I like to think that there's a part of all of us in that brief moment in Saoirse Ronan's performance that transcends the borders of cinema. It's a humanistic portrayal that leaves a final tender note on a reality that almost all of us should be able to share with our own parents.
To that end, Lady Bird is a masterpiece. An intimate portrait of those crucial transitional years between high school and college where parental relationships are transformed into something on a far more mature level than what was realized before. A level that I myself have probably taken longer than I should have to fully understand, but am thankful for coming to terms with nonetheless, no matter how difficult it may have seemed to me.