In the first few minutes of Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird we witness our titular heroine (Saoirse Ronan) and her mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf), transition from tearfully sentimental to full-blown rage, resulting in Lady Bird unbuckling her seatbelt and throwing herself out of the moving car. Now, be honest with yourself, how often have you fantasised about escaping a parental lecture by doing just that?
From this moment on, we know Lady Bird is not going to be your average mother-daughter, coming of age tearjerker with every Hollywood clique thrown in for good measure. What we’re instead offered is a refreshingly realistic take on female adolescence and the ever-complex relationships between mother and daughter.
Lady Bird storms through the high school rite of passage to perfection: first love, heartbreak, new friendships, broken friendships, losing her virginity, rekindled friendship and a ticket to the college of her dreams in New York City.
This may all sound pretty standard, but Gerwig has two unique twists up her sleeve. Firstly, we’re rarely treated to such a believable, real and unapologetically honest female protagonist. Lady Bird is strong-willed, confident, intelligent, witty but is also hot-tempered, stubborn, self-absorbed and at times selfish. Unlike lots of films – particularly in the coming of age genre – that try it iron out these very human flaws by justifying them, Lady Bird leaves them out to dry.
Secondly, there is the focus on the relationship between mother and daughter. When discussing Lady Bird’s love interests, Gerwig said “there’s going to be two boys and they’re both wrong.” Compare that to Easy A, in which the writers couldn’t resist pairing Emma Stone with her true love in the finale, despite the fact that this relationship was underdeveloped and seemed to be constructed for the sole purpose of ending with a romantic, John Hughes inspired conclusion.
Luckily, Gerwig does not fall into such mundane traps and presents us with a deeply complex, brutally honest relationship between its two leading ladies.
Both being “such strong personalities” as Lady Bird’s father (Tracy Letts) reminds us, leads to a volatile relationship. But underlying all this is an unshakeable, unconditional love.
Whether you grew up in sweet Sacramento or a tiny town in South England, Lady Bird will bring you rushing back to your adolescence and remind you that one of the most important relationships we ever have is the one we share with our families.