LADY BIRD gets 8.5/10 Flipping the ‘bird

Directed by Greta Gerwig
Starring Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts


Her final year of Catholic high school in Sacramento is certainly a time of change for the artistic Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan). As she contemplates her future life and college, 2002 brings her a number of surprises and challenges that brings her into conflict with friends and family, especially with her “no-nonsense” mother (Laurie Metcalf).

Lady Bird is a study in an economy of style. In its short run time this film accomplishes a lot, without seeming rushed or frantic, and although the story that its working on may be typical of a “coming of age” genre picture, it is constructed in such a manner as to seem effortless. We experience a year in the life of the titular character, one of immense changes, as she comes to terms with her parental relations, her peer group, her sexuality, her own socio-economic status, and her wishes for a future. Yet, as an audience, we still feel we know the characters, and they have had time to breathe and develop. Each scene serves a well defined purpose, we never linger on anything longer than necessary, with each shot further informing us of character and mood.

For her second film director Greta Gerwig, creates a tight and immensely well constructed tale, without excessive directorial flourishes or stylistic tricks, beautiful in its simplicity and earnestness.

It’s also an extremely funny film, that manages to achieve an emotional depth in its exploration of Lady Bird’s life. Perhaps one of the most poignant realisations, and one that is played very subtly, is that everyone Lady Bird interacts with, has problems in their own lives that are more overwhelming than the ones she is dealing with. That doesn’t make Lady Bird a bad person, just human. Caught up in her own teenage angst, her perception is skewed. That gradual awareness is part of her growth, as she becomes more assured of her own identity she is able to develop more acceptance of her life as well as empathy for others.

Ronan manages to convey this teenage confusion and rebellion with a perfect mix of naivety and worldly wise. Her enthusiasm and frustration are palpable, and she imbues Lady Bird with a sardonic grace. However, she’s at her best when sparring with her mother, played by Metcalf. Here you can feel everything both said and unsaid, and that they both love each other and frustrate the hell out of each other. Seeing that relationship play out is rewarding, humorous and heartbreaking – in about equal measure.

In short Lady Bird is a perfect souffle. A dish that looks light and airy, made with only a few simple ingredients, but that simplicity hides the skill and artistry that went into it, and the joy that is there in the partaking.


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