Beau Waycott reviews Lady Bird, screening in the Plymouth Arts Centre cinema from 16 March – 23 March. Limited tickets remain for the final screenings, book early to avoid missing out.
Writer-director Greta Gerwig’s solo debut is a wincingly funny and wistfully sentimental bildungsroman comedy. Unique experiences of teenage isolation and traditional coming-of-age tropes combine to create a modern ode to teenage hometowns; to loving yet restrictive mothers; and to the ubiquity of adolescent yearning, the yearning of all senses.
The piece can be considered a bildungsroman in both senses, with Saoirse Ronan playing the titular Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, a spunky and obstinate teen attending Catholic high school, portraying both some of the first years of true personality and final years of spiritual education. Although confident and willing, Lady Bird is undiscerning and almost snobbis, with her self-given nickname appealing holistically to all of her characteristics. Overwhelmingly, Lady Bird is alienated- by her fluxing relationship with Catholicism; by her town, “the Midwest of California”; by her overt sense of class in a strikingly post—9/11 American suburbia; but mostly by her intensely pragmatic and pessimistic mother who dismisses her dreams to study at “cultured” and bohemian East Coast colleges. This lack of maternal communication is the crux of the film, with dialogues (or lack thereof) that all viewers will find simultaneously comforting and authentic; both Lady Bird and her mother are unable to make the self-sacrifices needed to maintain the parental bonds forged in childhood.
Gerwig doesn’t view her work as a truly autobiographical piece, instead commenting “it has a core of truth that resonates with what I know.” One of the most interesting aspects of the film is its time period, with the depiction of high school boredom circa 2002 inviting questions of class, societal inequality and the ‘war on terror’. Young people today are often blanketed by their addiction to ever-general ‘social media’ by the media, but Lady Bird emphasises that the passionate hedonism and determination of youth (with almost every scene beginning in media res and continuing at this intense speed) fosters the same emotions and relationships regardless of technology or setting- characters truly are the focus of this film, and not their status or family situation (although it’s reported that Gerwig did ban mobiles phones being used whilst on set).
Ultimately, Lady Bird is a film that will make you laugh but also consider both your coming-of-age and your parenting (if applicable, naturally). Subtle and poignant dialogue is complemented with a lightning-fast plot to successfully portray all aspects of youth, and its age-defying qualities of independence, isolation and love. If Conan Gray and Jeffrey Eugenides were to come together and make a film, Lady Bird would almost certainly be the end point.
Additionally, the £4 under-25s tickets at Plymouth Arts Centre really are fantastic. Myself and friends often enjoy contemporary, classic and independent cinema for such brilliant prices here in Plymouth. I think it is massively important that art is open and accessible to all, and £4 tickets really are testament to this.