In Sacramento, the “mid-west of California” we meet Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson
(Saoirse Ronan), a teenage girl on the cusp of adulthood coming to terms with finishing her
final year of Catholic school in place which to her is as remarkable as her new name is plain.
As the film begins it seems to the audience that it will be yet another teenager movie,
a clichéd coming of age. And then the magic happens; for Greta Gerwig is at the helm. Lady
Bird is Gerwig’s first film as solo director, and she is triumphant in telling a story so
compelling in its simplicity, honesty and its undeniable reality.
The beating heart of this film is the relationship between Lady Bird and her mother
Marion (Laurie Metcalf); the hot to cold, zero to sixty fierceness; the devastation of gut-
wrenching honesty and the overabundance of emotion that tends to suffocate. The opening
scene establishes this dynamic vividly as both women go from crying over an audio tape to
yelling at each other, before Lady Bird throws herself from the family car. Gerwig’s
masterfulness is her ability to balance the extremes with ease, and to direct her leading ladies
so perfectly that they deliver each moment with a purity that pulls on the heartstrings.
Lady Bird tackles the awkwardness of first loves, the importance of good and honest
friends, and knowing the difference, heartbreak, unrealistic expectations, and the harsh reality
of the real world. But more than that, for Lady Bird it’s the what ifs that scare her. What if
she never leaves Sacramento, what if she never amounts to anything, what if her mother is
right? “I want to live through something” she wishes. But what if she doesn’t?
The hype surrounding this film is well deserved. Nominated for Best Picture, Best
Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress at this year’s
Academy Awards, I have no doubt Oscar statuettes will soon be in hand.
On a personal note, I watched this film seated beside my own mother and found
myself laughing and crying, reaching for her hand as she did mine. In Lady Bird we saw
ourselves. It was devastating, comforting, full of heart and soul. This film will remind you of
home no matter where you live, even if it’s on the wrong side of the tracks.
Review by Isabelle Aswad