Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut is a veritable triumph.
Lady Bird is a film that comes so near to perfect storytelling that it will haunt you for days and weeks after you see it. Greta Gerwig has given us a tremendous gift in her stunning screenplay, a love letter to her hometown of Sacramento. This script is brought to glorious life by the performances of Saoirse Ronan, playing Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, and Laurie Metcalf, playing her mother Marion.
Through these two remarkable talents, Lady Bird flips the ‘coming-of-age’ genre and the ‘California dream’ genre on their heads and injects more life and vigor into them than seems possible. Lady Bird is a high school senior at an all-girls Catholic school who is tired of Sacramento. She is strong-willed and stubborn, leading her to clash with her equally strong-willed and stubborn mother.
While the fulcrum of the film’s power rests on this central pair and how they each deal with Lady Bird’s transition into life beyond high school, it’s the powerhouse performances of every single cast member that catapult the film into being hilarious, heartfelt, and so deeply honest.
Gerwig masterfully builds Sacramento into the script as a character within and of itself. She draws on the specifics of her own life experience to craft a script that could be applied to anyone watching. It’s impossible to walk away from Lady Bird without reflecting heavily on your own hometown, your own high school years, and your own mother.
Lady Bird manages to be wildly funny one moment and terribly sad the next. This makes the world of the film feel almost painfully real. For the ninety minutes that you spend watching, you belong completely to Ronan, to Gerwig, and to this family that is somehow so tender and rough at the same time. Gerwig is a fearless writer and director, giving such attention and painstaking honesty to some of the most difficult moments in the life of a teenager and in the life of a mother. No one will walk out of Lady Bird without feeling the immediate need to call their mom.
Photo credit: Indiewire.