Lady Bird is set in 2003, less than two decades ago, but it might as well be a story from a different age. 2003 was the year the Iraq war started and, crucially, the year before Facebook launched. Therefore, unlike so many ‘coming-of-age’ stories created since, it has no room for social media and other preoccupations of our digital world.
Coming-of-age films tend to feature everyday, relatable experiences, about characters who irk us in ways we have been irked, and comfort us in ways we have been comforted. They are memory films. Lady Bird is all of this and so much more.
Saoirse Ronan stars as Sacramento teenager Christine, who insists that people call her Lady Bird, the nickname she has picked for herself. The film charts her difficult final year at her Catholic high school, with love interests and arguments aplenty. World-weary adults pop up throughout to tell Lady Bird ‘she’s not worth it’ and shouldn’t apply to the top colleges, but her determination shines through as she seizes her moment.
Lady Bird emerges in Ronan’s mesmerising performance as brattish but brilliant, a character who is frustrating and hilarious in equal measure, and ultimately someone to root for.
The crux of the film is her relationship with her spiky mother Marion (the brilliant Laurie Metcalfe). The pair are engaged throughout in an intense emotional battle that veers between anger and love, yet the film passes by lightly. That’s an achievement of Greta Gerwig’s sensitive direction, which brings excellent performances together seamlessly, and with a great sense of comic timing, to boot. Gerwig, Ronan and Metcalfe show us, miraculously, that how you understand and interact with your family can ultimately define who you are.
Lady Bird is released in selected cinemas today and nationwide from February 26
Also to catch this week: What if Lady Bird and her mother went years later for therapy together? You’ve No Idea How Much I Love You is screening at the ICA and ditches the California sun for the confinement of a therapist’s room. It’s a much heavier way to explore the mother-daughter relationship. It’s not a feel good film like Lady Bird, but is a valuable and unique movie in its own right.