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Friday 27 April 2018

Lady Bird, Film (2017), written and directed by Greta Gerwig, 9.5* out of 10

“Lady Bird” is a beautiful coming of age drama rewarding us with moving and witty scenes, dialogues and characters.  Saoirse Ronan in the title role and Laurie Metcalfe as her mother are outstanding. With this film, Greta Gerwig establishes herself as a supremely talented filmmaker with an original and intelligent voice. 

Christine “Lady Bird” MacPherson (Saoirse Ronan) is in her last year at the private catholic St. Xavier High School in Sacramento (California). Her parents can hardly afford to send her there. Her father (Tracy Letts) an IT specialist in his late 50 is in a precarious job position. Her mother, a psychiatric nurse, runs the family household, which includes an adopted brother and his girlfriend , with an eye on its worsening economic prospects. Making ends meet is her greatest challenge, just at a time when Lady Bird is dreaming of attending an expensive college on the East Coast of the USA. “I want schools like Yale, but not Yale, because I probably couldn't get in.” 

Meanwhile Lady Bird is making her final year experiences, rebelling against authority, falling in love, conducting real friendships and engaging in useful ones. Lady Bird is not beyond a bit of cheating in pursuit of her worthy academic goals and love interests. She is in that place where behaviour can dramatically switch, from needy child to self-assured adult with bouts of hard-nosed rebelliousness, mainly against her mother. A mother who wants to instil a tough realism into her daughter who sees the future as exciting open and full of possibilities: the hopes you have for your future are not likely to be fulfilled; make the best you can with the hand you are dealt; do your duty to your family and your community; be a good rather than happy person, live in dignity but prepare on living with very limited means. As she starts into the new phase of her life Ladybird does not want to settle for that. With mother and daughter are both headstrong and persistent.

For me, “Lady Bird” is drama with hilarious moments, rather than a comedy.  With this film, Greta Gerwig shows that she is a supremely talented filmmaker with an original and intelligent voice. As a writer, all the characters in her film are complex and interesting, all have something to commend them to us – no stereotypes or caricatures here. As a director, Gerwig packs a great deal of content into a scene.  Dialogue, pictures and music each tell a different aspect of the story, but everything is carefully composed, like separate melodies that come together beautifully, but are not always in obvious harmony. This makes for cognitively challenging but exciting viewing. For me it took two viewings to fully appreciate the punch “Lady Bird” packs. I find it difficult to decide whether this is a criticism of me, or of the film. Important developments in the plot and the dialogue happen spontaneously –  you snooze you lose. Witty lines and great cinematography seem to come at you seemingly out of nowhere and yet they are clearly carefully crafted. If you are attentive, they will delight you. 

Saoirse Ronan in the title role and Laurie Metcalfe as her mother are outstanding in the way they embody their characters and render the turbulent relationship between mother and daughter utterly believable. They movingly bring to life the great scenes and wonderful lines they have been gifted by Gerwig. Together they have created characters that will stay with us long after the film has ended. The supporting roles are memorable too, notably Beanie Feldstein as Lady Bird's best friend Julie.  

“Lady Bird” is a truly original coming of age film rewarding us with moving and witty scenes, dialogues and characters, which will stay etched in our memories for a long time. 

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