Hannah Parker reviews the Oscar nominated coming-of-age film, Lady Bird…
The relationship between a mother and a daughter can be complicated. But give the mum extra working hours and a huge amount of stress, while the daughter is a hormonal teenager and you’ve got yourself a much more complex relationship. Coming-of-age films have been around for a while, but none have focused on a daughter and a mother quite so realistically as this one has attempted to.
Lady Bird – AKA Christine McPherson (played by Saoirse Ronan) is a pink-haired, stubborn teenager. She’s not the coolest, not the prettiest, and a bit of a tomboy which instantly makes her relatable to girls who’ve felt like an outsider at any point in their life. After her older brother saw a stabbing at a regular high school, their mother decides in order to protect her from the same traumatic experience, she’ll put her in a catholic school. It’s the first inkling into the protective nature of her mother, however, it cleverly never crosses the line to over-bearing.
Lady Bird’s mum, Marion McPherson (played by Laurie Metcalf) is put in a difficult situation when her husband loses his job. She’s a nurse on a nurse’s wage, so her income isn’t particularly high. Despite this, she has a family to look after including herself, her husband and three kids. Two of them work part-time at the local supermarket, but it’s still barely enough to make ends meet.
Lady Bird, however, dreams of being part of a rich family and living in one of the huge all-American houses near her school. Her dreams come true when she begins a relationship with the grandson of the owner of one of her dream houses. Things take an upsetting turn when the relationship ends in an abruptly hurtful way, and suddenly her dream of inheriting this wonderfully aesthetic house fades away.
She soon finds another boy to take her attention, and she engages in sex for the first time with him in one of the most realistically awkward sex scenes you’ll ever watch. But after finding out it wasn’t his first time, she leans on her mum for some much needed comfort. The underlying warmth of their relationship comes from their mutual respect, care and love for one another, and due to the rarity and rawness, they’re the best scenes of the whole movie. But, like most families, with both being such stubborn characters, their clashes often take over.
“The underlying warmth of their relationship comes from their mutual respect, care and love for one another, and due to the rarity and rawness, they’re the best scenes of the whole movie.”
Marion’s sole purpose in life is to protect and look after her family. In order to do that, she deters Lady Bird from applying to expensive colleges because it will cause huge financial strain to the rest of the family. But Lady Bird isn’t happy going to a college just half an hour away from home, she wants to move away and create a life for herself outside of Sacramento. Therefore, knowing her mum will not be convinced, she turns to her dad – the softer of the two parents.
As her mum finds out that herself and her father have gone behind her back to apply for the more prestigious, expensive colleges, the two fall out in the most relatable and upsetting way. Marion gives Lady Bird the cold shoulder for weeks, while Lady Bird is begging her to listen, talk and understand. Incredibly, you can’t help but feel complete sympathy for both characters.
It has to be said that the story itself is nothing particularly unique or original. But what truly sells this film are the script and the acting. The way in which every scene is written at times makes it feel like you’re watching a documentary. The whole movie is so realistic, you leave the cinema just wanting to give the mother-figure in your life a big hug.
But the acting matches the script so perfectly, it’s easy to see why both Saoirse and Laurie have been nominated for Oscars. Laurie delivers a career-best performance, with her strong and stern exterior hiding her innate need to keep her family happy and safe. Saoirse enacts every emotion and feeling a teenage girl has running through her body every minute of every day in the most refreshing way. Both actresses create completely relatable characters that you care for, occasionally feel annoyed with, but ultimately offer one of the best depicted mother/daughter relationships on the big screen. It’s refreshing to see two strong women heading a film in such an inspiring way.
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