Directed by Greta Gerwig
When you start watching Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird, you can't help but feel that you have set yourself for just another high school, coming-of-age story. But what Gerwig actually produces is a kind-hearted, wonderfully awkward, and tragically sad replication of what it is like to grow up with big dreams in a small town.
Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) is a spunky, creative spirit desperate to leave her hometown of Sacramento and go where the culture is: New York City. She has a love-hate relationship with her overly realistic mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf), who tries to encourage her daughter to be the best version of herself she can be, without encouraging her to aim too high. As Lady Bird's senior year at her Catholic high school unfolds, she joins the theater club with her best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein), finds love and new friends, and searches for her purpose in this big, confusing world, all the while trying to figure out how to get out of the suffocating Sacramento.
Lady Bird has been dubbed as "a love letter to teenagers and their mother," which couldn't be more true. An autobiographical recount of her life growing up in Sacramento, Gerwig not only brings a wit and charm to this beautiful coming of age story but also a depth and heartbreak that can only be captured by her. When watching Lady Bird, you cringe at Lady Bird's perfectly awkward teenage foibles, you roll your eyes at her ignorant and selfish behavior, and you sob at her mistakes and disconnect. I have never seen a female-lead coming of age film that captures so perfectly, and so effortlessly, what it means to be a teenage girl, and how the mother-daughter relationship truly shapes and defines one's adult self.
What Gerwig is able to capture stunningly is the lovingly harsh relationship between mother and daughter. Gerwig is able to depict perfectly the egocentric nature of being a teenage girl, only concerned about oneself and not able to fathom the emotion disparity of those around them, and the tough love of a mother, who, at times, might not realize that the words of a mother cut deeper then one might think. Gerwig finds the beauty and love in the animosity of being a teenager, whose dreams are bigger than herself. She handles Lady Bird with such care, intimacy and assurance, you would think this was her hundredth film, rather than her first.
What makes Lady Bird even more beautiful is its collection of wonderfully vulnerable characters, cast perfectly by Gerwig. Saorise Ronan, always brilliant in everything she does, is almost a mini-me of Gerwig, capturing wonderfully her quirky persistence and hilarious awkwardness. Ronan is charming and hilarious - she plays every high and every low of Lady Bird's journey into adulthood with ease and clarity, finding beauty in the simplicity of everyday life.
As Ronan's counter, Laurie Metcalf's Marion has been beaten down by life, forced to be harsh and tough in order to ground the overly dreamy Lady Bird. Metcalf finds all the nuances and depth of women and a mother, lost in purpose and identity, trapped by life and trying her best to raise a stubborn and strong-willed daughter who can't get her head out of the clouds. Ronan and Metcalf play tremendously off one another, bringing to life the dynamic and intimacy, and sometimes hatred, of a mother-daughter relationship.
Lady Bird a wonderfully real, awkward, and charming love letter to being a teenage girl with big ambitions from a small place. It's a deeply personal, yet universally understood, depiction of growing up, with all of its ups and downs, fights and tears, smiles and laughs. Gerwig's ode to the youth fills you up with nostalgia for the freedom of adolescence but then cuts you down with the harshness of reality. Lady Bird is a wonderfully funny, caring, and emotional homage to growing up and it is truly something special.