Lady Bird is the intimate coming-of-age story of a high school senior who longs for a life bigger than her hometown of Sacramento. Director and writer Greta Gerwig captures the personal details of a young girl who is rebelling against her overly-critical mother, first love, and her lofty ambitions to apply for a college in New York when everyone thinks she doesn’t have what it takes to make it.
The film is a character study of Christine McPherson (played by Saoirse Ronan), who insists that people call her Lady Bird. Like many teenagers, she struggles with body issues, self-esteem, a sense of entitlement, and a longing for bigger and better things.
What makes the film so outstanding is the sensitivity and care that Gerwig takes to frame Lady Bird’s coming-of-age without any hint of judgment. Gerwig does not rely on overstated dramatics. Everything is quiet, even when the characters are ready to blow up, the film never manipulates these narrative points with indulgent music or flashy cinematography. Everything is tempered so it plays out so realistically.
Holding everything together is a fantastic cast giving very measured performances. Saoirse Ronan, who has already won a Golden Globe for her performance in this film, is every bit an American teenager. She is captivating even when Lady Bird is at her most infuriating. She plays her role really close to the hip, never playing for sympathy, nor does she try to make Lady Bird likeable. Ronan goes for it — every vulnerable moment, every dark thought, without fear, creating a very real character that is compelling without losing any of its familiarity. Ronan is able to make her extraordinary in her ordinary-ness and it’s a magnificent showcase of her talents.
Laurie Metcalf plays her critical and domineering mother, Lady Bird’s biggest challenge and frustration in life. There is a hardened exterior to Lady Bird’s mother that Metcalf projects with such force that it betrays a history of pain and loss that the film only hints at. It’s a spectacular performance.
Rounding up the cast are Beanie Feldstein, who plays Lady Bird’s best friend Julie, Tracy Letts, Lady Bird’s father, Oscar nominee Lucas Hedges and Timothee Chalamet, who play the young men in Lady Bird’s life. Each one manages to deliver solid performances that help round out Lady Bird’s world and creates a world that Lady Bird feels greatly connected to but also imprisoned by.
This is not a film that is excessive nor explosive, but prefers to keep the narrative simple but truthful and honest and, sometimes, very raw. It doesn’t need to be anything else and films like these are few and far between these days. It puts into clear focus the familiar and the everyday, and magnifies without over dramatizing its core. It’s a film about everyday people undergoing very personal changes and, by turning it into a film, Gerwig creates this space that makes us feel big. It validates our own personal, intimate struggles.
In a cinematic landscape that has favored musicals, superheroes, and world-changing events, a film like ‘Lady Bird’ reminds us that movies are a mirror to who we are. It’s nice, for a change, to be reminded that our everyday struggles to find our place is just as important as the next big blockbuster film.
Lady Bird will be shown exclusively at Ayala Malls Cinemas (Trinoma and Greenbelt 1) starting February 28.