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Lady Bird - DVD Review

Lady Bird

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

GRETA Gerwig’s directorial debut Lady Bird has rightly been lauded as one of the best coming-of-age films in recent memory.

It’s witty, moving, intelligent and beautifully acted, as well as semi-autobiographical in nature. Gerwig, who has long been tipped for great things within the movie industry, wrote the screenplay as a tribute [or thank you] to her own mother, as well as a love letter to her home-town of Sacramento. Perhaps that’s why it feels so authentic.

Yes, the film follows a tried and tested coming of age path. There’s sexual awakening, misunderstood ‘outsider’-style teens and parental conflict. But the nuances here are what makes the film so great. There is emotional complexity at play. Characters don’t always do what’s expected. A happy ‘feel-good’ ending isn’t guaranteed. Characters on both sides of the age spectrum can be fallible: by turns loveable, yet cruel.

Gerwig has long been an actress more commonly associated with indie filmmaking. She’s worked extensively with the likes of Noah (The Squid & The Whale) Baumbach, Rebecca Miller and Whit Stillman and some of that influence has rubbed off. As too, perhaps, has the likes of the Jason Reitman/Diablo Cody pairing or even Richard Linklater.

But there’s also something more feminist. She places the difficult relationship between mother and daughter as the main focal point of the film.

Hence, the story begins as Christine ‘Lady Bird’ McPherson (played by the ever-reliable Saoirse Ronan) is beginning to contemplate life away from home… possibly in New York where she can pursue her passion for the arts (or maths).

Her mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf), finds Lady Bird irritating and ungrateful. A nurse working hard to keep her family going, since her husband (Tracy Letts) has been laid off, she is all too aware of the cost [and financial strain] such a move would place on her family. But she loves her daughter and is always there for thrift shopping trips or to offer emotional support and/or counselling.

Lady Bird, for her part, is also exploring her own relationships, whether with best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein), who has weight issues, or with boys: whether in the form of the school’s musical theatre leading man Danny (Lucas Hedges), or roguish band member Kyle (Timothée Chalamet), who offers a more rugged, but cool, possible alternative.

Each of these characters is vividly drawn, thanks to both the quality of the performers and the richness of Gerwig’s script. Feldstein, in particular, emerges as the breakout star, imbuing her Julie with a tremendous amount of sympathy as she attempts to make sense of her own insecurities and jealousies.

But it’s the main three that leave the biggest lasting impression. Letts, as ever, excels, his sympathetic father offering the type of role model that any ‘misunderstood’ teen would love to call their own (whilst simultaneously clearly wrestling with his own issues of self-esteem).

But Ronan and Metcalf are stunning. The former is as smart as she can be insecure; quick-witted, charming yet capable of selfishness and unthoughtful outbursts. She is the kind of teen we can all relate to.

Metcalf, meanwhile, is a powerhouse as Marion, her pained expressions frequently providing insights into the confusion, anger and resentment she sometimes feels, as well as the love, compassion and bravery she regularly exhibits. The scenes between mum and daughter are frequently among the best in the movie, while the final few moments – as they bid their farewells and come to belated realisations – are genuinely bittersweet and tear-jerkingly poignant.

Lady Bird is a masterclass in filmmaking. It’s a pleasure to watch throughout; yet it’s also a film that resonates beautifully and deeply.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 95mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: July 2, 2018