Lady Bird

Studio: A24
Directed by Greta Gerwig

Nov 20, 2017 Web Exclusive
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The final year we spend in high school before heading off to college is often confusing and aimless. Ready to spread our wings and leave the nest despite our lack of real world knowledge, we find comfort that this sentiment is often reciprocated in others who share similar experiences of rejection. This may sound like a tired cliché, but Greta Grewig’s whimsical Lady Bird manages to depict a unique coming-of-age story through Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan). Grewig’s script manages to seamlessly weave in between the raw emotional pains of love that are undeniably genuine. With a complicated mother-daughter relationship at its center, Lady Bird is crafted together with steadfast care and affection.

Our protagonist Christine “Lady Bird” demands to be called by her given name as she is determined to discover herself during her senior year. Christine’s grades aren’t terrible, but she’s also not the best student. Christine has interests, but nothing she is quite passionate about (at least not yet). The only thing Christine is really sure of is that she wants to get out of Sacramento and go to New York City – much to her mother Marion's (Laurie Metcalf) dismay. Committed to making this dream come true, Christine falls into the usual phases of youth as she falls in love, explores the drama club, and cries in a car with her best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein) as they sing Dave Matthew’s “Crash” together in solace. Ronan brings the character to life with one of the best performances of the year. With fierce wit and humour, Christine’s vulnerability as the girl from “the wrong side of the tracks” is apparent in Ronan’s slouched body language and longing smile. Christine is a confident girl who drags her feet.

While most high school films tend to center around sexuality and friendship, Lady Bird finds a distinct balance between Christine’s social and home life. Tensions run high within the middle class home with Christine’s father Larry's (Tracy Letts) recent layoff and her mother working overtime at the hospital to keep everything afloat. On top of this, Christine’s big brother Miguel (Jordan Rodrigues) and his punk-clad girlfriend (Marielle Scott) have college educations, yet work at the local grocery store and sleep on the pull-out couch. Rarely does this particular genre focus on the hardships of the working class and the unfortunate realities post-grads can face. It makes sense that Marion doesn’t want Christine to go away to college as money is not only tight, but she fears that she will end up with an enormous debt and zero job prospects. Marion is often described as a scary and stubborn mother, but the tremendous amount of love she has for Christine is earnest. A shopping trip at the thrift store for a Thanksgiving outfit starts out with passive aggressive comments, but quickly dissolves as the two fawn over a pretty lace dress. At the drop of a hat, conversations between the two can go from carefree to volatile. It’s these moments in the film that feel personal and messy all at once as Ronan and Metcalf work beautifully off one another. Grewig isn’t afraid to depict the love and ugliness between the two on screen. Even the opening scene illustrates the complexity of the relationship as we witness a sweet moment between mother and daughter over a tape that quickly escalates into a heated argument and ends with a written declaration on an arm cast – “fuck you mom.”

Lady Bird manages to feel like a lover letter to home without being cloyingly sweet. Lady Bird is arguably one of the best films of the year as it handles the unextraordinary with true warmth and sentiment. Shortly after leaving the theatre, I wanted to watch it again.

Author rating: 9/10

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Average reader rating: 10/10


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