Written By: Nick Poulimenakos
I have been meaning to write a review for Lady Bird for a long time. By the time you read this, you will have probably already heard about how breathtaking and incredible this low budget, coming-of-age film truly is. One that took the entire film industry by surprise, given its name sounds like a sequel to 2016’s biopic, Jackie (Lyndon B. Johnson succeeded John F. Kennedy as President of the United States and Lady Bird was the name of LBJ’s wife). But this is not a political film, rather it is the story of a senior in high school, navigating her way through life with a name she picked for herself (Lady Bird). It is not even possible to tease if Lady Bird is great or not because of the time this review will appear online. So, without further-a-do, continue reading to see why Lady Bird is definitively one of 2017’s best films.
Lady Bird follows Christine McPherson aka. Lady Bird. A high school senior, Lady Bird is an outspoken teen who is getting ready to begin applying to college. While she wants to apply to various out-of-town schools, her strong-willed mother is having none of it and Lady Bird must deal with her loving but turbulent relationship with her mother over the course of an insightful and eventful final year of high school.
It is not often that a directorial debut succeeds. But indie-darling Greta Gerwig superbly showcases her strength as a director with every frame of the film. Lady Bird is evidently a semi-autobiographical film that is as assertive as is it proficient. A low-key film by any means, Gerwig perfectly captures the reality of the story and the final product almost feels like a raw look into the life of a struggling American family and the daughter who strives for something bigger. As the writer/director, Gerwig gives viewers an inside look into the parts of a teenager’s life that is both exciting and but hurtful, never shying away from pulling on all kinds of heartstrings. Over the course of the last decade, Gerwig has acted, wrote and co-directed, always looking to hone her filmmaking skills and Lady Bird proves to be one of the most honest and personal films of the year, a testament to Gerwig’s dedication to expertly crafting this kind of story.
At its core, Lady Bird is a simple story, revolving around a troubled mother/daughter relationship. One looks to leave her small town for a big name University while the other has zero patience for her daughter’s big ideas and schemes. A film that deals with how a young teenager is supposed to separate herself from her menial life with her parents, Lady Bird is a beautiful tale of someone who seeks to break the mold and pave their own way, even if it means making a lot of mistakes along the way. It is then where we come to truly appreciate our parents’ impact on our lives and begin to see their point of view.
I’m reminded year in and year out that Saoirse Ronan is one of the best actresses working today and Lady Bird is simply another example of this. She is stunning in the titular role, expertly portraying the emotion a young woman would feel during this challenging and sensitive time in life. Whether it is falling for the popular guy in school to clashing with her mother on the smallest of matters, Ronan thrives in showing Lady Bird’s sympathetic and hilarious moments during her senior year. She’s a character that almost anyone can relate to even when she’s clearly in the wrong and Saorise Ronan makes it all look so easy. Laurie Metcalf shines as Lady Bird’s mother, as the actress will definitely garner some serious Academy Award talk with this career-defining performance. With Ronan’s Lady Bird mainly acting on pure emotion, Metcalf’s Mom is there to bring her back down to earth, despite her parenting methods potentially being too strict. She can go from loving to funny to downright scary, all with a snap of the finger and Metcalf strings it all together so beautifully.
In a film that is filled with emotionally moving moments, Gerwig still manages to have a sense of humor. Ronan’s Lady Bird gives herself that name because, in her eyes, it is a funny way to stick it to the man, to reinvent the norm. But Gerwig then throws a wrench into Lady Bird’s plans with the comedic Catholic School setting, which Lady Bird can barely tolerate. Lois Smith appears as Sister Sarah Joan, one of the school’s various nuns and is both hilarious and heartfelt in the role. She sees true potential in Lady Bird but that does not mean that she is not going to have some fun when trying to shape her young mind. Beanie Feldstein stars as Lady Bird’s best friend Julie and this is arguably her breakout performance. Not only does she bring much of the film’s levity, but Feldstein’s honesty and humor only add to the myriad of likings Lady Bird boasts.
Lady Bird is a near perfect film but where it faults lies with its structure of the story. When watching the film, the narrative flow is reminiscent of a series of connected short stories rather than a fully connected feature. While this is not a bad decision, more so an interesting one actually, but some viewers may find the constant jumping around Lady Bird’s life to be rather odd.
A small story does not mean a beautifully shot story and Sam Levy’s cinematography is gorgeous. From the opening scene of Lady Bird and her mother arguing about college in a car, Levy’s focus on the characters throughout the film shines as you really get a sense of what each character is feeling and what they are going through. The scenery in the film is colourful and vibrant as Gerwig and Levy display the many shadings and facets of Sacramento California. Lady Bird may want to desperately leave her home, but that does not mean that Sacramento is an ugly place to grow up in.
Jon Brion’s score for Lady Bird is perfect. In a film that relies almost solely on the performances of its cast, Brion’s score is there to add emotion, intensity and light-hearted fun. It is a score that encapsulates the scene on screen, playing quietly in the background so that it does not take away from what Gerwig is trying to accomplish in the sequence. Brion’s music acts as a method to elevate the emotion on screen, leading to a mesmerizing movie-going experience.
Lady Bird is a simple, albeit phenomenal narrative. Chronicling the life of our titular character as she traverses her way through high school, the film has remarkable heart and gives fans an honest look into what teenagers go through in their supposed “awkward” years. Putting love and accomplishment along with defeat and failure at the forefront, Greta Gerwig remarkably conveys a mother-daughter story that fans will almost immediately fall for. It’s passionate, striking, heartbreaking but also uplifting and remains as one of the surprises hits of the past year.
Nick’s Rating – 9/10
Mathew’s Rating – 8.5/10
Artur’s Rating – 9/10
Lady Bird is in theatres everywhere.
What did you think of Lady Bird? Let us know in the comments down below!