Lady Bird

Lady Bird ★★★★½

Lady Bird is a bizarre film.
It doesn't do anything new, it's clichéd as hell, it's sometimes rather pedestrian in the way it treats its subject matters and it just strolls along the beaten path a bit too willingly.

And it's still bloody good.

I've been a teacher for about 20 years now. The most intriguing parts of my job are trying to figure out what makes these kids tick, how to help them balance the good and and the bad things life throws at them and how to make them give a shit, about themselves and the world around them.

These struggles are usually at their peak when they're 17. And this is something Lady Bird manages to get exactly right. Christine (an absolutely superb Ronan) is one of those kids caught in a constant tug of war between external expectations and internal desires.

See, most kids aren't nice people. Yet. They are at the start of a journey to find out who they are. It is only natural that this goes hand in hand with an egocentrical, hormone induced phase of discovery and experimentation. Christine is exactly like that. She has this romanticized version of herself in her head that she tries to live up to. And in doing so she is a self-centred and obnoxious kid most of the time.

I appreciated the fact that she wasn't turned into some smart mouthed verbal diarrhoea kid we get so often in films like this. Christine is fallible, making her struggles much more relatable.

Gerwig's script and direction cater for a kind of restrained freneticism that seems to run throughout the narrative affection most characters but Christine and her mother especially. There are these moments of shattering realism alternated with scenes bordering on the absurd. Gerwig, admirably, never loses control and seems to understand perfectly when to reel in the reigns and when to let go.

I know Christine is the focus of this story and rightly so, but for me the strongest and most intriguing part is given life to by Laurie Metcalf. Her performance is worthy of every award imaginable. Her line delivery is as perfectly timed as it always, but she has a couple of silent moments that perfectly capture her struggles. One of the most impressive performances I've seen in a while.

Such a performance is, obviously, as much a credit to the writer and the director. Gerwig's direction is solid and refreshingly sober, but the way she's written her characters is where she really shines. Christine and the way she interacts with the world around her just feels like it should. And even though the what isn't that remarkable in Christine's arc, the how is and that is what makes this work so well.

Metcalfe's performance is fantastic but the way she was written truly resonated with me. Being a parent I immediately connected to the paralyzing idiocy you can feel when you see your kid struggle with life. Everything you say comes out wrong, even the things meant with the best of intentions. I also get the feeling Gerwig wanted to comment on something so prevalent in today's society.

'You'll do better next time.' 'I want you to be the best version of yourself.' 'You'll succeed in the end.' 'Study hard and you'll get that A.'
In education and in parenting there seems to be no room to fail anymore. The focus is always on a generalized perception of result, never on the need of the individual. Sometimes a C is someone's A, sometimes someone's self is what you'll have to deal with and stimulate and encourage; sometimes enough is enough. Getting though life is tough enough as it is for kids, it doesn't need these discouraging platitudes that basically say that what they are isn't enough.

I love how Gerwig allows her characters to make all those mistakes and in doing so showing us in the end it is ok to do so as long as you focus on what is important, connection and acceptance.

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