Little Women: A Review

Greta Gerwig's masterful film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's seminal coming-of-age (before the genre 'coming-of-age' was fully established) novel Little Women has been adored by critics and audiences alike, and I'm very much inclined to agree. Indeed, it appears as though Gerwig can do no wrong, with the film being declared the definitive adaptation of the novel. 

Taking place in the midst of the American Civil War, ‘Little Women’ follows Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March and their beloved mother Marmee (Laura Dern) as they navigate their way through the world. The resilient Jo (Saoirse Ronan) takes centre stage, and her defiance captivates the audience, providing a sharp contrast with Emma Watson’s Meg, a notoriously difficult character to make interesting. Florence Pugh achieves the rare feat of making Amy, the most unlikeable sister, likeable. Indeed, she is a triumph, and at times outshines Meryl Streep, as the formidable Aunt March. Eliza Scanlen’s sickly Beth is sincere and overshadowed by the more dominant sisters, but nonetheless pleasant to watch. Timothée Chalamet shines as the charming Laurie.

The casting of Ronan and Chalamet is their second collaboration together, and the second time they have been under the direction of Gerwig, after 2017's 'Lady Bird', and their chemistry is undeniable. The scene in which Laurie confesses his love to Jo, for instance, sees the two actors deliver an outstanding performance, in which love and desire are shown to not always mean the same thing: ‘it would be a disaster if we married’.

Gerwig gives an organic feel to the story, with questions of love and the expectations of women seeming fresh and relevant. Certainly, the plights and desires of the characters are so familiar and identifiable, that they feel more than just mere fictional beings – it is as though we are watching ourselves on screen. This is emphasised by the warm dynamic between the sisters and the realism evoked through the dialogue.

The non-linear chronology of the film – Jo’s haircut being the only clear indicator of the time setting - is somewhat confusing, but nonetheless an interesting take on the narrative. However, heaps of praise should be given to the costume and production design teams, who have artfully curated a setting that brings colour and warmth to the film. I adored the ending, in which we see Jo publish her novel, thus proving her self-worth and showing the audience a passionate woman sticking to her guns and doing something that will make her happy. And what’s wrong with that?

4.5 out of 5.