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Lady Bird (2017) written and directed by Greta Gerwig

The title is her nickname

Saoirse Ronan plays an adolescent girl living in Sacramento, California during the early 2000s who nicknames herself “Lady Bird”. Yes: she’s eccentric and somewhat rebellious even by adolescent standards with her strangely-coloured hair and tendencies towards such attention-seeking incidents as throwing herself out of a moving car during an argument with her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf) - resulting in her arm ending up in a cast. She attends a Catholic school but tends to prefer performing in their theatre group to adhering to all of their stifling dogma. She aspires to move away from her dull city for the bright lights of New York.

The film follows her through the ups and downs of her relationships with her parents, her adopted siblings and various school friends and boyfriends.

Watch a trailer:

The heady emotional rollercoaster of adolescence

As you might surmise from the relatively short description, Lady Bird is a film that’s hard to describe without watching it unfold for yourself. There’s a lot of dramatic incident here but it is presented less as straightforward a-b-c plot and more as a semi-humorous slice of life that just whisks by in a colourful haze despite numerous moments of emotional intensity. In other words, it perfectly captures the heady rollercoaster of adolescence. Sure, there’s a little bit of exaggeration here which is played for comedic effect (during my adolescent life I never heard of anyone throwing themselves out of a moving car) but the overall impression of the film gives rings true.

A large part of it is in Greta Gerwig’s writing and direction. The somewhat off-the-cuff, playful writing style from Frances Ha makes a return here but, whereas in that film it seemed to have been a bit of a stylistic end in itself, here it is spoken by characters who feel more multi-layered and human. The film keeps throwing in little moments of revelation about both our titular character and those surrounding her whom she brushes up against. The relationships she has with both her mother and her first love (played by Lucas Hedges) take some particularly memorable turns. However, Gerwig the director never lingers on them for longer than necessary, instead preferring to quickly move on to the next comedic or dramatic highpoint. In Lady Bird’s young life everything is in constant flux and she allows for actions to play out without thought for their ultimate consequences, for instance when she lies about living in an expensive house to impress the most glamorous girl in class.

Saoirse Ronan and Beanie Feldstein in Lady Bird

Saoirse Ronan’s performance is an equally large part. Her mixture of brattiness, insecurity and giddy excitability captures adolescence down to a tee. She gets plenty of hilarious highlights - her comeback on an anti-abortion speaker at her school being particularly delicious. However, her emotional interactions with the other performers make an equally great impression. As well as the uncomfortable friction that she generates with her onscreen mother Laurie Metcalf, the fun-loving and girly bounciness that she has with best pal Julie (Beanie Feldstein) is joyously funny to behold.

Lady Bird is a textured and refreshingly honest look at the trials and tribulations of being on the cusp of adulthood.

Runtime: 94 mins

Dir: Greta Gerwig

Script: Greta Gerwig

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Lois Smith, Stephen Henderson, Odeya Rush

Rating: ☆☆☆☆

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