Lady Bird

Lady Bird ★★★★

2017 Ranked
Seen in Theaters

What often makes Greta Gerwig’s first solo directing effort Lady Bird so astounding at times is how distinctly feminine the film is throughout. This film oozes with the female gaze as girls fawn over the boys around them, Gerwig capturing them in a heavenly light typically reserved for the female love interests. Gerwig also demonstrates an intimate knowledge of the problems found in mother-daughter relationships. Lady Bird is a frank, honest, and achingly authentic look at the life of a girl who is a bit selfish, a bit manic, a whole lot of awkward, and entirely lost.

Living in Sacramento, Christine/Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) wades the awkward minefield that is Catholic school as her strict mother (Laurie Metcalf) and her fight daily, her dad (Tracy Letts) tries to be the good guy, her older brother and his girlfriend live in the home, and the family is poor while she goes to school with and in the upper crust of Sacramento. Developing themes centering around mother-daughter relationships, the changing of the times in a recently post-9/11 world (the film is set in 2002/2003), income disparity, depression, awkward adolescence, and homosexuality, Lady Bird may not be exactly a breathe of fresh air in execution as it covers much of the same ground as countless coming-of-age films that have been made before. However, as with The Edge of Seventeen, what makes Lady Bird stand out and truly resonate is the fact that this is not a girl’s life as seen by men. Instead, it is one written and directed by a woman with the film benefiting tremendously from Gerwig’s lived experiences. This film, at its core, feels like her life and this is what makes Lady Bird so impactful.

The theme that Gerwig works with that is perhaps most prevalent is the mother-daughter relationship. As Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf trade blows, sparring with one another over the most common issues, and quickly alternate between a loving pair to one that fights and then back again, Lady Bird hits a great emotional nerve. As people tell Lady Bird that her mother Marion loves her, as Lady Bird says her mom hates her, as Lady Bird laments that her mother loves her but does not like her, and then as she is caught in moments of honesty where she admits her mother loves her, the film creates this display of two headstrong women fighting due to their similarities rather than animosity. They love one another, but both feel insecure and awkward. They both hate their living conditions and struggle to express their feelings in a normal fashion, leading to their constant bickering. Marion wishes she could have provided Lady Bird with more, but cannot seem to get this message across. Lady Bird, through intuition, knows but through teenage angst fights against it and instead positions her mother as a person who limits her freedom, all while her mother looms over her waiting to discipline her for not putting away her clothes before leaving the house. Yet, at their core, the two love one another deeply and struggle to find the words to express this emotion. This mutual understanding, this tumultuous relationship, and excellent performances from Ronan and Metcalf, make Lady Bird ring with authenticity. However, it is the film’s writing that makes it so impeccably powerful.


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