February has been a month of big releases with films like Black Panther and The Shape of Water but the title I had been most anticipating was Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird. This coming-of-age dramedy is Gerwig’s directorial debut, after co-writing and starring in other films, including Golden Globe nominated film Frances Ha. Her writing and acting credits in prior years have been impressive, however it is clear that the release of Lady Bird is the brightest star amongst her achievements, having received four Golden Globe nominations, and winning two; one of which was Best Motion Picture in the Musical/Comedy category.
The film mirrors aspects of Gerwig’s own life growing up, with the story taking place in her hometown of Sacramento, California. The director and the heroine share other similarities within their lives, like the jobs that their parents have and the fact they both attended an all-girls Catholic school. However, whilst this might seem like an autobiographical film it should not be judged as such, as Gerwig herself notes that the story evolved beyond her own experience. The story speaks to the life of teenagers growing up and their relationships in a way that breathes a life of its own.
The story follows a seventeen, soon to be eighteen, year old girl named Christine McPherson who has given herself the title ‘Lady Bird’. Despite being a coming-of-age film, this story doesn’t follow the typical conventions we have come to accept in this type of film. Instead Lady Bird addresses the more personal issues of home life, in particular the relationship between mother and daughter. Gerwig’s story does well not to sugarcoat the lives of the individuals within the film, not only showing the struggles of Lady Bird, but her family and other characters who surround her.
Christine is a headstrong teenager who desperately wants to escape the confines of Sacramento and this, among other reasons, has led to a strained relationship with her mother. Her identity as Lady Bird allows her to explore who she could be outside of what she has known her whole life. In taking on this persona her rebellious side emerges, distancing herself from her family and even her friends. Whilst perusing this side of herself she goes through the typical teen issues; first love, choosing a college, losing her virginity and the dilemma of popularity. However, whilst these are typical tropes of a teen movie, the film also explores the effects these things have on Lady Bird as well as those around her. We see the emotional repercussions of these events, as well as an exploration of the effects of mental illness, especially in the cases of Lady Bird’s father and theatre teacher.
Throughout the film the audience is exposed to an array of emotions. Whilst being a quirky comedy, Lady Bird is also a wholesome emotional tale, which is reflected directly in the protagonist. Lady Bird is a complex character who illustrates perfectly what it is like to be a teenager trying to figure out their future. Saoirse Ronan flawlessly portrays this character, who is both amazingly confident and riddled with anxieties, making it no surprise that she won a Golden Globe for her performance. This evocative story has put Gerwig’s name on the directorial map, and hopefully we see more from her soon.