Skip to main content

How To Be The Best Version Of Yourself – Lady Bird A Film Review

In the last few years, the film industry has delivered copious amounts of nostalgia to it’s growing audiences, Beth Sawdon notes that Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird is no exception.

BY Beth Sawdon

Lady Bird’s charming and comedic influence warms the audience and brings the heart of the noughties into 2018.

Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, Lady Bird is a coming-of-age comedy-drama film starring Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Beanie Feldstein, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges and Timothée Chalamet. Having already bagged a number of awards such as two Golden Globes, and winning AFI’s Movie of the Year, Lady Bird is set to be one of the biggest films of 2018. Taking place in Sacramento, California in 2002, Lady Bird follows the story of 17-year-old Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson and her chaotic relationship with her mother. With the help of her understanding father, and through learning from her mistakes with her friends and relationships, the artistically inclined Lady Bird tries to figure out who she is, what she wants from life, and what truly matters to her.

“an alternate name can give you an alter ego and something that you can escape into”

Saoirse Ronan

The main film poster told me a lot about the film before I even saw it. The border, for example, shows warm colours which I would soon discover matched the warm tones of the film itself. Lots of natural light was used throughout, especially around the start of the film with the iconic driving scene where we first meet Lady Bird and her mother. One thing I really liked about this film was the theme of religion that was shown throughout, and that I inferred from the poster with the lettering and crucifix in the background. Lady Bird doesn’t identify with or want to be addressed as her religious name, “Christine”, but the poster suggests that she remains faithful to her religion. The old-style lettering of “Lady Bird” shows that although she wants to express herself and experience being young, she is not straying from the religious upbringing she has had. In an interview with Film4, Saoirse Ronan talks about her character, “an alternate name can give you an alter ego and something that you can escape into […] it allows them to be creative and be this other part of themselves.”

Lady Bird is a great example of a film that shows the common experiences had by young people in relationships. There were points that I could relate to, and I am sure many others would say the same. I liked the fact that we saw not only Lady Bird’s experiences, but also those of the supporting characters Danny, Julie and Kyle. Lady Bird shows the characters’ varying reactions to love, sex, betrayal and guilt; and also presents issues experienced by the LGBTQ+ community. This film deals with first love, heartbreak, sexuality and who we will turn to in times of need. The mellow, soothing soundtrack by Jon Brion which mostly consists of strings and piano, is a fantastic accompaniment to the topics of the film. Tracks such as ‘Drive Home’, ‘Sign Up’ and ‘Hope?’ almost take the listener on their own journey with Lady Bird. These slow and melancholy instrumentals gives the audience the ability to reminisce on their own lives, their achievements, regrets and goals yet to be reached.

Photo by @sereypich27

“when they're in profile, they look like flip sides of the same coin... the fights are so intense because they can hit each other with the same power”

Greta Gerwig

Another part of this film that I liked was the cinematography and the use of reflections and shots of characters side-by-side or sat opposite each other. Often involving Lady Bird and another character, these shots were a great way of showing self-reflection. This subtle mirroring is used throughout the film, and I especially liked it when it was used between Lady Bird and Sister Sarah Joan. By placing the two characters opposite each other, this shows how Lady Bird feels they are equals, despite being separated by a desk; representing the difference in age, authority and their professional relationship. We see the use of mirroring first when Lady Bird is in the car with her mother, when they go dress shopping and whenever they argue. There is also a really good use of mirrors and reflection when the two are in the bathroom; Lady Bird and her mother are having a personal conversation and it is one of the only times during the film that they are calm with each other. The majority of the scene is filmed through the mirror, so we see their reflections talking to each other. This shows how, although their relationship may be turbulent, they both have a calmer, more vulnerable side which is very rarely seen. In a Film4 interview, Greta Gerwig talks about how she wanted the characters to be alike, right down to their appearance, “when they’re in profile, they look like flip sides of the same coin […] the fights are so intense because they can hit each other with the same power”. Gerwig cast the pair to be so similar in personality and looks to further highlight the differences between Lady Bird and her mother. They are so alike, yet Lady Bird does not feel welcome or even like she is part of her family. She strives for more in her life but is tied down and guilt-tripped by her family for not being grateful. Although content with her simple home life, Lady Bird lusts for extravagance and a sense of belonging somewhere, something she does not receive at home in Sacramento. Many viewers of a similar age will closely relate to this fragment of the film, especially those about to leave home for university.

Lady Bird is a moving, thoughtful film, and is clearly heartfelt work from Gerwig. While it’s set 16 years ago, the story is no different from the experiences of 17-year-olds today. Even the noughties fashion is still hanging around in 2018. For many young girls, particularly Brits; Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging is considered to be the pinnacle coming-of-age comedy film to get you through the teenage years. I now disagree. Lady Bird is now number one on my list of “Films To Get You Through Life” along with the likes of The Breakfast Club, The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Rebel Without A Cause.