Lady Bird (2017), from writer and the solo directorial debut of Greta Gerwig, is a grounded coming-of-age story that displays the turbulent transition from teenager to adult.
Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) is an insistent and outgoing Catholic school student ready to graduate and attend college far from her hometown of Sacramento. She has a tumultuous relationship with her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf), who is supporting the financially struggling family. Lady Bird attempts to climb the social ladder at school by distancing herself from her quirky best friend Julie Steffans (Beanie Feldstein). To do this, Lady Bird enters the world of dating. All the while, Lady Bird’s relationship with her mother becomes more hostile.
The portrayal of the mother-daughter dynamic is refreshing with its realistic depiction of the everchanging love-hate relationship. Both characters are inherently flawed—Lady Bird is irratio nal and Marion is overbearingly controlling of her daughter This brings a sense of realism to the film reflecting a realistic and humorous dynamic of the typical mother-daughter relationship.
Gerwig’s inclusion of smaller moments with supporting characters is one of my favourite aspects of the film, as it shows the finer moments in life that an average film may gloss over. For instance, in one scene, Lady Bird and Marion are shopping at a thrift store for a prom dress, and they fight about Lady Bird’s attitude. When Marion pulls out a potential dress, the duo instantly become cordial with one another again. This display of the ups and downs of an average child-parent relationship can be familiar to anyone looking back at their teenage years with their loved ones.
Part of the allure of Lady Bird is its investigation into the complex experiences of the individual. Lady Bird is a part of the school play which is run by an enthusiastic priest, with rumours swirling about the loss of his family prior to him joining the priesthood. When the production is over and drama club starts prepping for their musical, the priest is nowhere to be seen. In a small scene afterwards, it shows the priest talking to Marion, who is a nurse, about the troubled times he is having with his mental health. The scene does not go into much detail, but showing the characters’ struggles brings to light the message that everyone that Lady Bird encounters is going through a personal journey. These poignant moments are scattered throughout, making it easily relatable.
The film is inventive as it subverts predictable coming-of-age tropes. Though Lady Bird does date the stereotypical bad boy, the relationship is different in regard to the way it ends and the emphasis on the friendship with Julie. The way the nuns in Lady Bird’s Catholic school are depicted are also different because they are not the typical abrasive nuns that are usually portrayed in film—they truly care about their students. In one instance, when Lady Bird pulls a prank on a nun, it is expected that she will be heavily reprimanded, but the nun provides comic relief and subverts the notion audiences may previously have.
Lady Bird is a refreshing take on the coming-of-age genre that highlights the ups and downs of a mother-daughter relationship, along with the trials and tribulations of young adulthood.
Gerwig, also a Sacramento native and growing up the same time as Lady Bird, disputes that this film is autobiographical but shares inspiration from her experience as a teen. I have enjoyed Gerwig’s acting roles and screenwriting in the past, but Lady Bird as her directional debut is an entirely different level of accomplishment.
I cannot wait to view more of Gewig’s directing capabilities.