Actress Greta Gerwig has proven her naturalistic acting chops in films like 20th Century Women, No Strings Attached, and Jackie. But now, she has announced herself as an exciting new filmmaking voice with Lady Bird, her solo directorial debut. Lady Bird may tread into a familiar genre: The coming-of-age dramedy. Yet, it feels distinctive because of how it hits close to home. It may be about a teenager trying to navigate high school but it also speaks to those who long to escape their small-town life and the parents who work tirelessly to make sure their children have a better life even if their children may not realize how grateful they are at first. It’s an honest and heartfelt gem that soars.
Set in 2002, Lady Bird follows the story of Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), a Catholic school student who only goes by the name “Lady Bird.” She aches to go to college in New York to be as far away from her hometown of Sacramento as possible. But her mother (Laurie Metcalf) urges her to stay close to home since her family is barely able to afford an in-state college. The rest of the film follows Lady Bird trying to balance her love life, her friendship with her closest friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein), her audition for a high school play, and simply trying to find her place in the world.
Lady Bird herself, Saoirse Ronan, carries this picture with absolute ease. Her Lady Bird may be thorny, rebellious, and oblivious to the problems of those around her. But Ronan still manages to make her likable by showcasing her vulnerability as well her surprising comedic timing. As an actress, she just keeps getting better because she manages to top her already impressive Oscar-nominated turn in Brooklyn with her work in this.
However, despite the film being Ronan’s show, the rest of the cast is impressive as well. Lucas Hedges and Timothee Chalamet are terrific as Lady Bird’s two love interests; theater kid Danny and musician Kyle, respectively. Lucas Hedges, who wowed audiences with his dramatic breakout turn in Manchester By The Sea, charmingly plays Danny as the kind of guy you want to take home to Mom. But Chalamet brings deadpan hilarity to his portrayal of Kyle who’s more of the edgy, “too cool for school” type. Laurie Metcalf is a standout with her layered work as Marion, Lady Bird’s mother who is loving yet flustered by how she can’t figure out how to help her daughter. Beanie Feldstein is a scene-stealer as Julie, Lady Bird’s sweet yet neglected best friend. Even Lois Smith provides some laughs in her small role as Sister Sarah John, a nun who teaches at Lady Bird’s school.
Credit for the entire cast being so great should also go to Greta Gerwig who writes the characters with such care and depth and gives each of them a big moment to shine. Also, the way that Gerwig writes the film’s working class family feels so authentic. Seeing the parents try to hit Lady Bird with hard truths about money and paying for education while making sacrifices to make sure she has a better future, along with her adoptive siblings, brought back memories of my own parents. They went through economic hardships to ensure that I would have a better life and this film serves as a reminder that I should be grateful for all they’ve done and never forget my small town upbringing no matter where I go.
With Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig manages to take the old coming-of-age genre and make it feel refreshing with its authenticity and heart. It offers plenty of laughs yet it is bound to make you tear up as well. Simply put, Lady Bird is perfection.