Oscar Week Film Review: Lady Bird

Nominated for 5 Academy Awards, Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird is rather brilliant – will it make her only the second woman to ever win Best Director? And should Metcalf get the win as well…? (Yes, to both).

“I want you to be the very best version of yourself that you can be.
‘What if this is the best version?'”

It seems scarcely credible that Greta Gerwig is only the fifth woman to be recognised with an Academy Award nomination for directing a film – a statistic that is nothing but utterly shameful in so many ways. But nominated she is, and for the gloriously funny and undoubtedly excellent Lady Bird.

A coming-of-age story that matter-of-factly puts the emotional lives of its leading – female – characters front and centre to create a rich and poignant tale of mothers and daughters. And in the hands of Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf – also both Oscar-nominated – Lady Bird soars all the way home.

Ronan’s Lady Bird is a moody teenager stuck in a Catholic high school in Sacramento, California, yearning to escape to New York “where the culture is” to sate her artistic impulses. For now, she has to make do with drama club (putting on no less than Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along) and balancing the interests of competing boyfriends and friends.

Using the vagueness of a semi-autobiographical disclaimer, just how much is true to life remains unknowable. But where Gerwig excels is in locating an authentic voice for the maelstrom of feeling that is a teenager, in all its contradictory tenderness and ferocity, its selfishness and love, and Ronan delivers it perfectly.

And she’s matched by richly detailed, superlative work from Metcalf as her harried mother Marion, working two jobs as her husband has been laid off, constantly frustrated and a complete emotional stranger to her daughter. The constant tension between the pair is delicious and ultimately, devastating as Lady Bird’s departure for college lays bare the distance between them. A quietly fantastic film.

Photograph: Moviestore/Rex/Shutterstock

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