Film Review: Lady Bird

By Raphael Beretta

Photo from VanityFair.com

Photo from VanityFair.com

Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, Lady Bird, is a clever, touching, and very accurate depiction of teenage angst, Catholic school and the special turbulence of a mother-daughter relationship.

Saoirse Ronan shines as Christine (or “Lady Bird,” as she calls herself as an act of defiance), a Sacramento native reaching the end of her high school tenure. Christine wants to be freed from the restraints of her lower-income status, her strict high school, and her stern mother, played by Laurie Metcalf. She tries theater, experiences a first love, navigates first-time sexual encounters with naivete, and pursues her dream of moving to the east coast.

Ronan is captivating as “Lady Bird.” She embodies the confusion of blooming adulthood, a balance between sweet and sting. Her frustrations are relatable, with every discouraged grunt and exasperated squeal bringing the audience back to an uncomfortable time within their own lives. Her touching innocence from The Lovely Bones and poised wit from The Grand Budapest Hotel have been further developed into her sure-to-be Oscar-nominated performance in Lady Bird.

Metcalf was equally as impressive in her performance of a mother who loves her daughter but has difficulty expressing it outside of her push toward her child’s perfection. Adorned with a rigid frown throughout the feature, Metcalf displayed a passive-aggressive side to “tough love”. She portrayed a character realistically flawed, with realistically redeeming qualities.

The supporting cast of characters adds to the believability and relatability of the world of Lady Bird. Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea) plays an upper-class theatre star and the subject of Christine’s smitten daydreams. Stage actor Stephen Henderson plays the lovably warm priest and director of the play, who battles depression in secret. Beanie Feldstein plays Christine’s best friend Julie, and awkward A+ student in love with her math teacher. These smaller parts support the credibility of the film.

The amber tones and close camerawork make Lady Bird a visual loveletter to Sacramento, the “Midwest of California”. The film looked recognizably “indie”, using a now-familiar platform to deliver a fresh perspective. The independent film style of dialogue, editing, and cinematography have been used so frequently in recent years that it is bordering on becoming a cliche. Lady Bird walks the line carefully, always remaining a step ahead of its peers in terms of originality.

Greta Gerwig achieved a mighty feat in her first outing as a director. The “hero” of her film bears all of the insecurities, doubts and faults that we did in our adolescence; Christine is far from a perfect protagonist, but she feels real. The “villain”: mom. Flirting with independence for the first time, every teenager sees their mother as the villain of their life. The scolding, disapproving, unsatisfiable bad guy: love to the brink of annoyance.

In the modern film landscape, a battle worthy of the screen is a caped superhero preventing his or her nemesis from destroying the world. A refreshing and equally worthy battle to view is one that most of us have already fought: our hopeful curiosity vs our mother’s loving protection.

Raphael Beretta