‘Lady Bird’ Movie Review

Guy Cardwell

Staff Writer

Lady Bird, released in 2017, with a score of 99% on Rotten Tomatoes over 398 reviews, has stood the test of time. Written and directed by Greta Gerwig, the movie is a coming-of-age story that documents a high schooler’s troubled relationships with her friends and family. The protagonist, Christine McPherson (played by Saoirse Ronan) is unsatisfied with her life at a Catholic School in Sacramento. She goes by the name “Lady Bird” instead of Christine to defy her mother, and she longs to one day reside on the East Coast. 

While her father (played by Tracie Letts) is supportive of her ambitions, her mother (played by Laurie Metcalf) believes that Christine is ungrateful for what she already has. The main conflict in the story is between Christine and her mother. Both of the characters come to better understand themselves and each other throughout the story.

One feeling that is difficult to portray on film is the suppression of emotion. People tend to cater their presentation to the perceived reactions of others. Lady Bird does a good job of portraying complex, layered, emotions. At any moment in the film, there is a double-narrative: the story that is being told, and the story that is being implied. One noteworthy example is the case of Larry, Christine’s father. Larry displays his warm and tender side, but throughout the story he is battling unemployment and depression. Christine only discovers this in her senior year. He’s ashamed of his struggles, and for that reason, feels the need to hide. Prior to Larry’s reveal, his depression is heavily implied; it is part of the “double narrative.”

The screenwriters carefully chose the setting of the story. The absurd juxtaposition between the strict purity of Christine’s Catholic school and the turbulence of her social life gives insight into Christine as a person. Christine comes into conflict with her hometown, religion, her school, and her mother. She feels restricted and is unable to express herself authentically. However, when she finally separates herself from her community, she realizes that it provides important grounding for her.

When Christine leaves Sacramento to go to college in New York, she begins to lose her connection to home life. After a night getting black-out drunk, she starts using her given-name again and returns to a church service. The movie prescribes that a balance must be struck between one’s liberal ambitions and traditional roots. 

Lady Bird can mean different things to different people. It’s a story about a normal girl, living in a mundane city, with normal teenage problems. But there is more than initially meets the eye. Each scene is carefully crafted to contribute to the narrative in often unsuspecting ways. It is a movie that can be rewatched many times, each viewing revealing more of itself to the audience. 

Photo courtesy of IAC Films