Monday, 23 April 2018

Lady Bird (5 Stars)

I first heard about this film last year when it was being tipped as a candidate for the 2018 Best Film Oscar. It won the award for Best Film at the Golden Globes. After this it was nominated in five categories for the Academy Awards, but won none. Later I read confusing newspaper reports in which critics were calling "Lady Bird" the most overrated film that was nominated for an Oscar this year. This almost put me off going to see it. I'm glad I followed my instincts and ignored what people were telling me.

The film takes place over the course of a year, from 2002 to 2003. It's a coming-of-age drama, a genre that has been hammered to death, but it has a greater depth of feeling than similar films without giving up its humour. Christine McPherson, who prefers to call herself Lady Bird, visits a Catholic girls high school in Sacramento, California, the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It's taken for granted that all the girls are religious, so if a girl isn't a believer nobody even notices. All Lady Bird wants to do in her last year at school is meet boys, and the best way to do this is to join the theatre group, which puts on joint productions with the boys' school.

Lady Bird isn't shy, but she is awkward. This makes it difficult for her to make contact with boys; difficult but not impossible. During her last year at school she has two boyfriends, but both relationships disappoint her.

A lot of emphasis is put on Lady Bird's relationship with her family. Her mother is emotionally stunted; she loves her daughter but is unable to show it. Her father is more openly loving, but he suffers from depression. (That sounds like my first marriage). Her brother Miguel is a Latino. He was probably adopted, but it's never stated explicitly. Lady Bird wants to break away from her family, from Sacramento and from Catholicism. She wants to go to college in New York, as far away as possible.

What makes "Lady Bird" a successful coming-of-age drama is the wide scope of her character ark. It's not just about school and boys. It's about reconciliation with her mother and with religion.

There's more I could say, but I don't want to give away any spoilers. All I want to add is that this is one of my favourite films of the year so far. I can accept that it's not a film for everyone, but it spoke to me on a personal level, and it made me laugh.

Saoirse Ronan once more proves what a magnificent actor she is. The supporting cast also play their roles excellently, but I was particularly impressed with Odeya Rush, the Israeli actress who plays her friend Jenna. It's the first time I've seen her, but I'll be watching out for her in future films.

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