Greta Gerwig/ USA/ 2017/ 93 mins
At Filmhouse Cinema, Edinburgh Now
The year is 2002, the place is Sacramento, California. Lady Bird, whose “real” name (given by her parents) is Christine McPherson, in the last year of Catholic high school, keen to challenge convention and to get out of what she sees as a backwater. Her plans to get a place at college somewhere on the more liberal East Coast meet with disapproval from her controlling but loving mother, one of the many factors that cause ongoing friction between the two. The mother/daughter relationship with all its complexities, apparent contradictions and fierce bond, is a theme that becomes central to the film.
The family struggle for money: Lady Bird’s father (Tracy Letts) is laid off, her mother (Laurie Metcalf) works double-shifts at a psychiatric ward to make ends meet and her adopted brother and his girlfriend work on checkouts despite being Berkeley graduates. There’s a warmth and kindness in the home that prevails though, and despite the typical and regular familial fallouts, a sense of love and loyalty shows the McPherson home as being much more relatable and appealing than those of the richer friends with whom Lady Bird briefly curries favour, in order to access pools, parties and boys. There’s a definite message about the value of enduring and real relationships – with family, friends and the opposite sex, one which sees Lady Bird learning time and again that all that glitters is not gold.
This is an easy watch; it’s thoughtful, detailed, full of pathos and funny, but there are moments of drama too, as Lady Bird experiences milestone suffering. In terms of plot, not a huge amount happens, but that’s the beauty of it. It’s gentle, genuine and much closer to real life than the kind of thing Hollywood tends to churn out. Saoirse Ronan is wonderfully believable, witty,charming and at times appropriately irritating in the title role. It’s unsurprising then that she has many nominations and accolades to her name, including winning a Golden Globe for this. The film itself won Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy at the same awards, is Oscar nominated and an established success across the pond. But the delightful Lady Bird is sure to be every bit as popular with British audiences.