A cliché-free exploration on the emotional expedition called adolescence, Lady Bird is a tender, colorful and intimate coming-of-age film from the directorial debut of Greta Gerwig.
The 1980s had The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles; the 1990s had Dead Poets Society; the 2000s had Juno; 2010s had The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Boyhood, and joining that prestige list of classic coming-of-age dramas is Lady Bird. Spearheaded by a rather poignant, iconic performance by Saoirse Ronan, the film follows the story of Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Ronan), who’s on her way to finish high school and soon off to college. We all know that phase, don’t we? We all recognize that very specific moment of our lives where we act as if we know everything that’s going to happen and we can’t wait to break free — Gerwig perfectly captures that young adult psyche in her narrative that’s so specific yet speaks universally. It wasn’t just about a teenage girl — everyone will see themselves in the story of the protagonist.
Saoirse Ronan’s performance, whose pink cast on her right arm and messy red hair will forever resonate to our memory, has forever marked a very specific image of a character in cinematic timeline. Her presence vibrates a thousand decibels, that her quirky, off-beat yet lovable persona as the titular character carried the weight of the film effortlessly. Ronan is, without a doubt, one of the best actresses of her generation.
Laurie Metcalf’s performance as Lady Bird’s mother is so universal, she doesn’t only shine a light on Ronan’s character, but also gives credit to all mothers with teenagers in their household. This portrayal reminds me so much of Patricia Arquette’s performance in Boyhood (2014), who epitomized everything about a misunderstood language of maternal love. Metcalf is raw, funny, and has embodied the reality of what and how a mother is.
The film is a love story between a mother and a daughter, whose worlds collide as they both reach that ‘angry teenager and a grumpy fun sucker mom’ phase. The film explored the language of attention as an expression of love. Attention, as we all know it, is what most young adults crave for. Marion McPherson (Laurie Metcalf) plays an overbearing, oftentimes clingy mom who gives so much attention to her daughter, which ends up rather, as what Lady Bird calls it, “infuriating”. However, that’s just how maternal love is — the involvement of a mother to a teenager’s life. Despite this being unwanted, Lady Bird reciprocates that ‘attention’ through that phone call by the end of the film (no spoilers here) which gives affirmation that attention is love, and that’s what she has ever wanted. There were scenes where her mother was ignoring her — Lady Bird begs for her not to; this suggests that being ignored means being unloved… to teenagers, that is. The film shows how love is interpreted both in the perspectives of a mother, and a teenager.
Overall, the film is easy and charming. It doesn’t drag you onto a dramatic meltdown that every teenager goes through. Despite its theme being very juvenile, it has a sense of maturity to it, as if its narrative is being told by an adult looking back at her young self, where she can now laugh at the silliest mistakes she has done. It doesn’t feel like it overly dwells with the drama; rather, it’s a look back on a “who was I and let’s laugh about it” account.
Simply, one of the best coming-of-age films ever made.