As college students, most, if not all, of us have been in a place where we don’t know what we should do with our lives. At the end of high school, we didn’t know what college to go to or what we should study. Well, that’s exactly what Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) was going through in Lady Bird, directed by the Oscar-nominated Greta Gerwig.
The film chronicles Lady Bird’s senior year of high school in Sacramento, California and the struggles that she goes through during it. It’s all about her relationships with her siblings, father, friends, teachers, boys and most of all her mother. Lady Bird’s mother (Laurie Metcalf) just wants the best for her daughter, but it sometimes comes across as overbearing and controlling. Lady Bird spends the movie navigating through all of this to see where she fits in and what her role is in all of it.
This movie really has a lot going right and I’m hard-pressed to find something that could be improved upon. The characters felt extremely real and relatable, the story was interesting and captivating all the way through and it highlights important issues that people of all ages can relate to.
The two main characters are Lady Bird and her mother Marion. Their relationship drives the plot. Lady Bird wants to go to college on the east coast so that she can experience “culture,” as she puts it. She is bored in Sacramento and feels as if a dramatic change of scenery will turn her misfortunes academically, socially and professionally. Lady Bird’s mother isn’t as confident in her daughter’s abilities but still shows motherly love. This motherly love is often tough love, which Lady Bird takes personally. Their relationship can be strenuous, but it always reverts to its loving core. A perfectly executed piece of editing in the last five minutes shows just how similar the two of them actually are. Their relationship can be reminiscent of your own relationship with a parent or that of someone you love.
The plot is structured fairly uniquely. The scenes that Gerwig chooses to include are sometimes just random days from Lady Bird’s senior year – yet the structure works. Each scene demands importance and attention from the viewer. There is enough humor that it could be classified as a comedy, but the seriousness of the dramatic aspects of the story overtake the comedy when needed. Gerwig creates a balance that allows the viewer to connect to and fall in love with the characters, with the more lighthearted scenes and then to really feel their pain when the emotional stakes are raised. And those stakes are raised mostly through the interpersonal conflicts that occur.
Lady Bird has a tough time making friends at school. She and her best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein) are in a lower economic class than most people in their school and that doesn’t let them relate to the others well. You see the cliques in high school that you come to expect and they don’t at all seem fake or forced. The students discuss a plethora of topics that are relevant in today’s society. War, abortion, the existence of God, eating disorders and sex are all talked about and handled respectfully, given the weight of the topics.
As for issues that the film’s adults face, Lady Bird’s parents sometimes fight over parenting decisions. A lot of that stems from the fact that they are fairly poor with her father being unemployed. It is also mentioned that, on top of all of this, her father is dealing with depression. Just like the things the students deal with, these things are all portrayed as they would be in real life – it highlights the way that people struggle.
Lady Bird is a very real movie. By that, I mean that each one of the characters seems like they could be someone that you run into at a local high school. They aren’t just some formulaic plot device thrown in to develop the main character. But that doesn’t mean the main character isn’t developed. We see a very clear and believable arc for Lady Bird that has you feeling for her and rooting for her the entire way through, largely because of the performance by Ronan. From her struggle of not feeling good enough for her mother to her falling out with her best friend, Ronan brings Lady Bird to life in such a way that you will only want the best for the titular character.
You can see Lady Bird at Parmer Cinema on Friday, April 20 at 6 and 9 p.m. and Saturday the 21st at 3, 6 and 9 p.m.