kevinyang’s review published on Letterboxd:
Little Women is a genuinely lovely, affecting film that exudes such warmth for its characters and their hopes, dreams, and fears. It's driven both by an understanding of sisterhood and by an understanding of what it means to want something as an individual. It lives in the complexities of human emotion and love, and in its most striking moments, highlights the dichotomy of trying to be independently headstrong and the oftentimes soul-crushing loneliness that accompanies being human. It's at its core an all enveloping hug of a film, one that modernizes the well-tread story in a way that feels genuine and befits Gerwig's sensibilities.
The story structure is a bit of a mess, I have to say - there are a lot of moving parts and characters in the story, so certain plot points and subplots are bound to get the short end of the stick. Not everything around the main characters works, and even some of those main characters' developments feel awkwardly stitched together. The timeline is a bit wonky as well, jumping back and forth from person to person. But suffice to say, it's a bit of a charming mess in the end, and the strength of the performances and directing keeps the story from falling off the tracks. Gerwig very effectively world-builds and mood-builds, such that you're at least drawn into the environment the film is putting forth on screen.
Where you find the true heart and soul of the film is in the dynamic between Jo and Amy, played by the wonderful Saoirse Ronan and icon Florence Pugh (who has quietly been churning out some of the best acting in Hollywood for the last several years, before exploding now). There's humor and heart and most importantly depth to both of their performances, and they anchor the film in their characters' emotional journeys. Theirs is a bond that is tinged with resentment and jealousy, but theirs is also a bond that withstands any man and any forces that may try to pull them apart. They want more than love, but they want love. They want to be successful and creative and recognized on their own, but they also have a family that is more important to them and their creative success than they even realize sometimes. So as new families are created, as all these women grieve and love at once, as they grow and change and learn about themselves, they can always return to a home that has been there from the very beginning.