Lady Bird ★★★★★

Actress Greta Gerwig delivers a spot-on, hilarious, unforgettable directorial debut with a coming-of-age drama that proves the actress’ promising cinematic voice. Set in what the film called “the Midwest of California” Sacramento, Lady Bird follows a young woman’s journey to independence. With all the familiarities we’ve seen in any coming-of-age stories, Gerwig finds her own voice and the unexpected wonder in the ordinary.

Following the successes of recent coming-of-age wonders Boyhood, and Moonlight, Lady Bird provides the monumental female standpoint of the subgenre. It presents a teenage girl on the cusp of being a young adult in a very realistic perspective. But Lady Bird at its core is a love story not with a guy, but a complicated bond and a love story between a mother and her daughter. Gerwig seemed to know this relationship so well that the nuances she creates are palpable, rich, and ingenious.

No surprise that Gerwig the actress can draw strong, layered performances from her cast, but one surprise here is that Gerwig knows how to manage the visual language of the camera. Gerwig’s impeccable sense of place in Sacramento is felt in every shot and scene. It flows well, feels palpable, and absolutely looks beautiful. But what really made Lady Bird so revelatory is Gerwig’s writing. Gerwig understood the life of the working-class, and every sentences her characters said are true. She never downplays their suffering, but rather honors them with exact sincerity. I’m from a working-class background, and yes, I feel like I’ve lived this life. I felt the hardship of living paycheck-to-paycheck, and the difficulty of surrendering big dreams over practicality. It’s so on-point that I felt like it’s the story of my life.

Gerwig’s characterization of Lady Bird is important one too. Gerwig knows the awkward phase of teenage life especially for a young woman and she finds a perfect avatar for this part with the formidable Saoirse Ronan. This is a girl that knows herself too well that alienates every person she encounters. Christine explores beyond the limits of her femininity from her friendships to parent relations and to sexual awakening. Gerwig points out the confusion, rebellion, the angst, the cry for independence, and the yearning for something larger than life. The combination of this characterization as well as Gerwig’s look on the situational crisis of the working class has never paired so well and effective on screen.

What can I say about the acting? Well, it’s flat-out stupendous. Laurie Metcalf reminded me of my own mother. Her heartbreak and determination for practicality is again, so on-point. Tracy Letts make a strong impression, as well as the adorable Lucas Hedges, Lois Smith, Beanie Feldstein, and Timothée Chalamet. But this is Saoirse Ronan’s show, and boy, she relished every minute of it. Vanity-free, with acne and all—Ronan’s work as Lady Bird made me appreciate her even more not just as an actress but as a person. She’s formidable in every thing she’s done and here, she surpasses herself in the nth degree.

Overall, I was spellbound. Lady Bird is a rare gem that captures the unexpected beauty and wonder out of the mundane. Greta Gerwig and Saoirse Ronan both did something profound to my heart and it’s quite special. My first 5-star movie. Top 10 material. Loved it.

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