Lady Bird (2017)
"Lady Bird" she demands to be called, the high school senior played by Saoirse Ronan in this indie-turned-mainstream hit. It's a name she has chosen as part of a rebellion against her controlling mother (Laurie Metcalf). We've all been through that formative phase in which we need to distance ourself from your parents. It's just that for Lady Bird, this need turns out to be a little more existential than for most.
Lady Bird is written and directed by Greta Gerwig, her first as a director. It's a coming-of-age story, and to some degree also a high-school movie, albeit a far more psychological profound one than your run-of-the-mill entries in this genre. The core of the story is the relation between Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf as the mother, and this is also the most interesting and dramatically powerful aspect of the film. Metcalf's performance is a powerhouse of inner drive coupled with a lack of self-reflection, and her many clashes with other people's (most notably her daughter's) perception of normal interaction make her flawed, even tragic, in a way that evokes emotions from both extremes of the scale. From Lady Bird's perspective, it all boils down to the disparity between the need for belonging and the need for detachment which typically manifests itself during the teenage years, something writer/director Greta Gerwig illuminates with skill and fresh eyes. Granted, the originality of the story has more to do with the mother than the daughter, but neither of these characters would exist without the other.
Along the way, we also get to experience both a first and a second love, involving fascinating characters played by two of the biggest young male talents these days, namely Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) and Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name). Both these substories are beautifully written, played and told; they have a tenderness to them that make them relevant and weighty. Something the film also wants and claims to be – and almost is, but for a somewhat obvious and colourless ending.