Star rating: *****
The notably Academy Award and BAFTA nominated movie offered such a fantastic and intriguing trailer that I could barely contain my excitement at finally sitting down to watch it. It didn’t disappoint, in fact the only bafflement is why it failed to collect the awards is was up for, perhaps in a different place and time it would sweep the board.
Seventeen year old Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) has given herself the name Lady Bird and she’s keen to ensure that her chosen given name appears on all relevant lists and documentation. The plot examines the typical relationship between teenage daughter and over-protective, over-worked and opinionated mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf). There are a myriad of exceptionally moving and highly observational moments between the pair, from the opening scenes where Lady Bird throws herself out of their moving car whilst attempting to make a stand, to a shopping trip to search for a dress.
Ronan and Metcalf’s on-screen relationship is extraordinary and one of the most believable fictional mother/daughter pairings I’ve seen. Lady Bird’s father, Larry (Tracy Letts) appears easier going than her mother, on the surface at least – she’s coercing him into helping her to apply for colleges in New York and they’re keeping the secret from Marion. The fact that it is later revealed that Larry has been battling with depression for many years comes as an interesting plot twist, not least because Marion works in a Psychiatric Unit. It’s also refreshing to see depression in men explored. Larry’s lost his job, meanwhile the son (Miguel – played by Jordan Rodrigues) that he and Marion adopted before they miraculously ‘made’ Lady Bird, is also in need of a better job than at the supermarket checkout. This makes for an awkward yet heart-warming moment later in the film when father and son go for the same job.
Outside of the family circle we meet Lady Bird’s best friend, Julie (Beanie Feldstein) – she’s a bit half-soaked and mooning after the Maths teacher, whilst simultaneously more fragile than her friend would believe. The girl who everyone wants to be friends with (including Lady Bird when the occasion concerns a ‘boy’) is Jenna (Odeya Rush). Julie and Jenna are polar opposites which makes for a fascinating insight into Lady Bird’s life choices when it comes to the friends in her world. First boyfriend, Danny (Lucas Hedges) isn’t as straight forward as he seems and the next one in line, Kyle (Timothee Chalamet) likes to be ironic, although he is actually quite a slippery character full of his own self importance.
The subtleties of the story are definitely a few of the films many strengths, the audience are left to make their own assumption about Miguel’s place in the family – his racial orientation making it fairly obvious that he might not be biologically related. So many issues are dealt with in quick succession, too – from homosexuality, to school girl crushes to virginity and there’s a marathon of untruths running alongside. It’s a study of life at it’s most chaotic, most ugly and most beautiful. Lady Bird’s college plans are the tip of the iceberg in a rough sea of torment, revelation and realisation.
With a cast who guide the audience seamlessly through the mire, each of whom embrace their characters as if they were offering a window into real lives – this is a movie not to be missed and one that I’ll be watching again and again. It certainly gets my award for Best Picture.