You could be forgiven for thinking that Lady Bird isn’t the film for you. Despite the awards and the rave reviews – it’s running on a 100 per cent score on Rotten Tomatoes – on the surface it’s looks like just another teen girl drama, right? Wrong.
As the film’s two Golden Globes and five Academy Award nominations also suggest, it’s a beautifully crafted feat of filmmaking, from cult indie sensation Greta Gerwig. She both wrote and directed he movie, and she’s only the fifth woman in history to receive a Best Director nomination at the Oscars.
Not only is it well made, it’s also a poignant film, with a poetic sense of universality that speaks to everyone’s own adolescent experiences. Here’s why you should go and see it.
It’s a universal story
Teenage angst is a cinematic trope that’s been around since the word ‘teenager’ came into use in the 1950s. Think The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, and 10 Things I Hate About You. It’s a fact of life that everyone, everywhere experiences a period of rebellion, experimentation and uncertainty in their teenage years – this reality filters across different cultures, races and genders. In Lady Bird, Christine ‘Lady Bird’ McPherson, played brilliantly by Saoirse Ronan, navigates her final year of school while longing to be anywhere else. ‘I want to go where there’s culture, like New York’ is Lady Bird’s all-too-familiar complaint. Her familiar teenage longing, defiance, indecision and impatience are something that we can all recognise; whether as 20 somethings, parents, friends or mentors.
You’ll recognise your own family it it
Alongside its teenage trials and tribulations, Lady Bird also paints a picture of a family that you’re sure to recognise. The agonising fights between Lady Bird and her mother, played with toughness and tenderness by Laurie Metcalf, are well-observed and brutally familiar. It’s also important to note that Lady Bird was inspired by Gerwig’s own experience of growing up in Sacramento, and her own familial relationships. Lady Bird is called Christine after Gerwig’s own mother. Each sharp-tongued exchange in the narrative hits home and despite its filmic quality, Gerwing’s portrayal of family life feels all too real.
Everything is considered
Its five Oscar nominations – Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress – speak for themselves. But it’s the level of detail in Lady Bird that really stands out. The costumes, designed by April Napier, were inspired by Gerwig’s own adolescent outfits, many of which were dug out of storage for Napier to use. They’re a believable part of Lady Bird’s pre-H&M, early-Noughties world, integral to the film’s character. The soundtrack was also compiled by Gerwig from her own preferred teenage playlists, and features ‘90s classics like the Dave Matthews band, Alanis Morissette and Justin Timberlake. It’s the ultimate soundtrack to a turbulent suburban adolescence.
It’s a lesson in movie nostalgia
Set in 2002 (the year before MySpace launched) there’s something both relaxing and familiar about the pre-digital, pre-social media world of Lady Bird. For those of us who can remember a time before the iPhone, the film is nostalgic balm for the soul. Conversations take place face to face, experiences are felt in the flesh (not viewed through a screen) and Lady Bird’s youthful naivety speaks of a time before teens’ main influences were the Kardashians. It’s a rare film that captures all the fleeting, awkward and at times painful moments in adolescence, but unlike today, they’re not captured and scrutinised on social media. If nothing else, Lady Bird will make you crave the world you grew up in – and take pity on today’s generation of endlessly plugged-in teenagers.