A few days ago, I went to see Lady Bird and was in awe. I sat in the movie theatre after it had ended amazed that I had never resonated with a movie as much as I had with this one.
Lady Bird, directed by Greta Gerwig, is centred around Christine “Lady Bird” McPhereson, a teenage girl who lives in Sacramento. The movie depicts her senior year at a Catholic School and the relationships that she goes through. It seems like an absolute cliché and in some ways it is but, unlike most movies, Lady Bird embraces the cliché without overly romanticizing it. The protagonist isn’t a manic-pixie dream girl that is overly represented in coming of age films. She doesn’t have vast knowledge of 70s rock or an obscure talent that makes her quirky and “unlike other girls.” She’s just an emotional teen coasting through her senior year and dealing with her complicated relationship with her mother, which is portrayed so gut-wrenchingly.
To put the focus of the movie on this relationship is so important because, whilst mother-daughter relationships are often represented in movies, it’s rare to see one like this. Both characters are stubborn and flawed, allowing the viewer to see where each side is coming from. This makes it hit home so much more. Lady Bird’s personality and the way she struggles with friendships and school and romance are portrayed in a unique way that prevents the movie from becoming like every stereotypical film.
Each character is complex and does not feel one-dimensional. At first glance, the characters represent tropes we’ve seen over and over again. There’s the best friend, the popular girl and the clean-cut love interest but each of them have a distinct personality that shows that they are not just secondary characters. They also have insecurities and problems, which sometimes Lady Bird can neglect. In some ways, this makes her character even more fascinating. She is clearly flawed and arrogant and self-centred, however this just makes her more relatable.
Over halfway through the movie, Lady Bird exclaims: “different things can be sad, it’s not all war.” Hearing those words felt extremely refreshing. Watching Lady Bird felt like a validation of all of the insecurities you deal with as a teenager. Growing up you’re filled with hopes and dreams and ambition and it seems so important at the time, but we still feel guilty as we’re constantly supposed to be focused on more serious things. Through the dialogue, the cinematography and the way the protagonist’s small suburban town is pictured, Lady Bird manages to capture the beauty of those normal teenage thoughts.
In an interview, Greta Gerwig revealed that one of her inspirations for Lady Bird was a conversation she overheard between two teenage girls, in which one of them exclaimed: “I just want to live through something.” Lady Bird reminds us that the act of being a teenager and going through all of those confusing feelings can sometimes be enough.