Lady Bird ★★★★

LFF 2017 #35

I’m not from Sacramento. I do, however, know exactly how Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson feels when she thinks about her hometown. Where I come from is colder (it’s England, duh) and greyer. London is only a half hour train ride away, but every time I go there it feels like entering another world in which I don’t have to be the same person that I am at home. Sometimes, I feel smaller there, and often that feels good. It feels good when I’m away from my hometown because my hometown can be suffocating. I have lived there all my life. Nowhere will ever be as familiar to me as this place. I itch to leave it for somewhere bigger, but at the same time it is home, and home is where I feel safe. Leaving would set me free, but leaving would leave me stranded.

I know how Lady Bird feels when she realises that she has only been accepted by a local college - one that would keep her in Sacramento. I recognise her determination to find another college that’s somewhere bigger and other. I’m still stuck here, for now. My places of study have never required me to move away, no matter how much I wish they had. But it won’t be long before I find an excuse, because I know I can’t stay here much longer - no matter how much security and familiarity I will be leaving behind. 

I love where I live because I can walk around these streets as if I’m a part of them. I walk here all the time. Not to go anywhere, but just to walk. I walk paths I’ve trodden a million times before. I long for more, but I know my heart will always return to this place. 

When I walk around London it’s different. There are people everywhere to weave in and out of. There’s a heightened energy and excitement that isn’t there in the place I grew up. That’s London for me. That’s New York for Lady Bird.

“From your writing, you seem to love Sacramento”
“I just described it. I pay attention”
“Isn’t attention the same as love?”

Is to know every detail of a place as well as you know your own face... the same as loving it? I think so. Lady Bird is a wise film, and its protagonist is wise in her own way too. Lady Bird doesn’t lag behind us. Her self-awareness allows her to come to realisations at the same time as we, the audience, do. She is able to recognise how she feels.

She may be able to recognise her attitude towards her mother, but she can’t stop herself from acting on her impulse to be hostile. I recognise this all too well. No matter how much love there is between a parent and a child, the child will always feel drawn away when they get to Lady Bird’s age. At her age, you are trying on different identities. Your parents have known you since birth, and have formed a perception of you based on an earlier version of yourself. We are not the same people as we were when we were children, but it is difficult and frustrating to redefine yourself for people who know you too well. Lady Bird has earth-shaking experiences with her friends and boyfriends, but when she comes home her excitement is deflated by being around her parents. They give her a reality check. They give her perspective when all she wants is possibility. She desperately longs for a chance to leave home so she can redefine herself away from people who will notice and comment on every change to herself that she makes.

There are many people who will feel “seen” by Lady Bird. Gerwig’s film shows Lady Bird drift in and out of relationships with different people, only some of them lasting. The film jumps from place to place in the same way that life does. It hits home because it is thoughtful about the people it depicts. Greta Gerwig gets it, because she lived it, as many of us did. Perhaps not in the exact same way, but in many different ways of our own.

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