As soon as I walked out of the movie theater, I wondered whether I should call my mom. Keep in mind I had seen my mom a few hours prior to the movie and I was planning to see her after. But the authenticity of the mother-daughter relationship portrayed in Lady Bird was unrivaled by any other film with similar themes. This wasn’t the story of an angsty teenager against her neurotic mother. This was a subtle portrait of a young woman discovering her identity set against the backdrop of a mother who is struggling. Marion, Lady Bird’s mother, has struggles that range from socio-economic, to struggles of tact, to arguably her biggest struggle, that of letting go. I went into the packed showing of the film expecting a quirky comedy about growing up. What I got was something ultimately more complex. I experienced an emotional ode to the beautiful dysfunction that comes from the most significant relationship you’ll have in your life, the relationship with your parents.
The film centers around Christine McPherson who rebrands herself as Lady Bird during her senior year at a Catholic high school in Sacramento. During this pivotal year, Lady Bird is aiming towards being admitted into a university “like Harvard or Yale” or a college in New York or New Hampshire “where the culture is.” With her lower-class social status, less-than-stellar grades, and rowdy attitude, the people around her (especially her mother) rally towards something more attainable, like city college. While the title character develops conflicts with love interests, friends, and family members alike, it is that constant state of war with her mother, that finds her at her most vulnerable. Lady Bird deals with the typical themes of many other coming-of-age tales. The strained mother-daughter relationship, boy drama, friendship conflicts, the uncertainty of the future; these are all themes that this film shares with the CW’s guilty pleasure Gossip Girl. The difference between the two is that in Lady Bird, these themes are stripped down so raw that you can’t help but wonder if the relationship you’re watching onscreen was based on your own. Of course, it would be unwise to assume that everyone will relate, but the authenticity that writer/director Gretta Gerwig was able to convey in her work will at least struck an emotional chord with even the most cynical.
The film has a great cast all-around, but there are three undeniable stars who elevate it to one of the year’s best. Saoirse Ronan continues her winning streak with her angsty, determined, and emotional performance that is sure to earn her a third Oscar nomination. Lady Bird could have easily become a caricature with her teenage temper, bright-colored hair, and lack of self-awareness. But instead Ronan creates a complicated character that you equally root for and frustratingly want to yell at. Lady Bird’s mom is masterfully played by sitcom-legend Laurie Metcalf. With her portrayal of Marion, Metcalf is able to show that regardless of her occasionally questionable parenting, her goal in life is for Lady Bird to have her best life possible. The talent of Gretta Gerwig is so undeniable that without an appearance on the film, she shines just as bright as Ronan and Metcalf. With a rising, celebrated acting career under her belt, no one expected for Gerwig to come out of the gate so strongly in her writing/directorial debut. Her voice is earnest and confident and bears similarity to the amazing work of Richard Linklater in Boyhood.
Without giving too much away, there’s a scene in the film that finds Lady Bird asking her mother for forgiveness, begging her to talk to her after she is given the silent treatment. The urgency in Lady Bird’s voice combined with the manufactured coldness in Marion’s response reminded me of the many times I thought my mom was never going to talk to me again. To say my mom and I don’t see eye-to-eye would be the understatement of the year. After many fights, tears, and disappointments, to this day, I still find my mother’s words to be the most influential to my character. Now, at 28 years old, I can see that all those fights we had during my young adulthood were due to an imbalance between my ability to see how much she cared and her inability to see how little I understood. Lady Bird allowed me to look back and see how perfect those imperfect moments were. It allowed me to get in my car, sit in silence, and realize how much my mother means to me. And most importantly, that initial idea of calling my mom turned into a warm hug, something I now realize I had not done all year.
Run Fly to see Lady Bird while it’s still on theaters!
3.5 out of 4 stars