Big Screen: Lady Bird
February 21st 2018
Lady Bird doesn’t get along with her mother. At one point when they’re arguing on the highway, rather than listen to her mum bang on any longer, she opens the car door and throws herself straight out of the moving vehicle.
This is the family dynamic that defines Greta Gerwig’s debut film, Lady Bird. It’s an irreverent, charming coming-of-age story that will have you calling your parents as soon as the credits roll.
The film is a semi-autobiographical account of Greta Gerwig’s own childhood. Instead of following Gerwig though, we meet ‘Lady Bird’ McPherson; an eccentric teenager from the wrong side of the tracks. As she confronts the trials and tribulations of senior year, her mum is doing her best to be in Lady Bird’s corner — but it doesn’t always work out so easily. Their relationship is fractious, volatile and sometimes downright mean. It’s played for laughs, but if it weren’t for the snapshots of her mum’s generosity outside of the home, it would be easy to cast Lady Bird’s mum as the villain of the movie. Instead Gerwig is sympathetic enough to capture the way it feels to have an overbearing mother, while appreciating the love that is tied up in that behaviour.
This means that the story becomes so much more than just a story about high-school angst. It’s also about the weird ways that mums and dads try to shelter and support their kids: The ‘good cop, bad cop’ roles that parents take on. The double-standards that accompany rules. Most of all it’s about how parents are humans too, making their own mistakes as they try to set an example for their children.
Gerwig’s own experience filters through the film, giving it a wonderful sense of humour and resonance. Perhaps that’s best demonstrated in Lady Bird’s relationship with Sacramento, Gerwig’s own home town. Lady Bird desperately wants to leave, until she is genuinely faced with that opportunity. By recognising how important the small world that you grow up in is, Gerwig crafts an ode to the difficulty of leaving your childhood behind.
It’s a beautiful film, with laugh out loud moments and enough authenticity to strike a chord. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go give my mum a call.