The year of 2017 has been filled to the brim with over-the-top blockbusters like Blade Runner 2049, Baby Driver, It and Justice League.
Our theaters are overcrowded with films that, while some admittedly great, all rely heavily on varying amounts of action sequences, breath-taking computer-generated imagery and supernatural or unbelievable elements. With mutants and killer clowns around every corner, watching A24’s Lady Bird, a movie as grounded as it is clever and poignant, is like a breath of fresh air.
On the surface, Lady Bird has a pretty cliché premise. The movie chronicles Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson—played by Saoirse Ronan—throughout her senior year of high school. Christine is forced to overcome milestones that anyone who went to high school can relate to, including applying to college, getting along with her strict mother and dealing with high school drama.
While the story isn’t groundbreaking, the way that it was executed is what sets Lady Bird apart from other coming of age films. Lady Bird marks the directorial debut of Greta Gerwig, who also wrote the screenplay. The control Gerwig has over every aspect of production is apparent through how seamlessly the camera, script and acting blend together.
The cinematography was impeccable, with a variety of beautifully crafted shots that serve as an efficient visual aid in pushing the film’s themes and narrative.
Additionally, the montage sequences, often seen as cliché in other movies, are intercut with dialogue rather than hits from the early 2000s, which pushed the plot forward and built up characters in a quick and entertaining way. Details like these give Lady Bird a very unique style.
While the film is great from a technical standpoint, the script is the true star of the show. The writing managed to maintain the fine balance between drama and comedy that few other movies accomplish. The humor comes in the form of banter between characters and awkward situations that frequently come about in a high school setting.
These comedic moments are effective, but subtle enough not to overpower and harm the plot’s flow. At the same time, the film manages to show many beautifully written, emotional scenes without messing with the film’s tone.
The moments of drama are best displayed during the tense conversations between Christine and her mother Marion—played by Laurie Metcalf. The arguments, brought to life by both phenomenal writing and excellent performances, achieve great levels of depth. Each character is given complex personalities and fleshed out motivations, making it easy for the audience to feel empathetic toward both characters as opposed to a simple “good/bad” dynamic.
It’s also worth noting how developed Christine’s character is. Many movies set in high school follow fairly cliché protagonists who are purposely simple, allowing audience members to easily project themselves onto the character.
Christine was written and portrayed, however, as her own character with her own personality, problems and journey to take. The point of Lady Bird is not just to relive your awful high school experience, but rather, to actively engage in Christine’s life and journey.
The movie also handled many sensitive issues in mature and effective ways. Themes like identity, sexuality, poverty and faith are all explored in various scopes based on Christine’s reactions to these themes in her everyday life. These issues are not played off for laughs, nor are they overly dramatic, but they are handled in ways that are relatable and realistic.
Lady Bird is a refreshing take on the high school movie genre and today’s focus on oversaturated blockbusters. Everything from its breathtaking cinematography to its excellent writing, direction and performances makes it a film that manages to be small in scope, yet larger than life.u