The trials and tribulations of youth are put on display in Greta Gerwig’s confident and excellent directorial debut, Lady Bird, becoming one of the most buzz-worthy films of this TIFF season, and a coming-of-age film for the ages.
Lady Bird, which stars Saoirse Ronan as the titular Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, is a touching and hilarious portrayal of teenage life during early-aughts America. Young people so often feel suffocated by their environment, and Gerwig takes a very specific story of a girl wanting to escape her lower middle class life in Sacremento, California during the high school season of 2002-2003 for the seemingly greener grass of New York City — a place to which she has never even visited — and made it feel universal.
The film’s cast is populated by marvels, beginning with Ronan herself as Lady Bird. Throughout the film, Ronan is saddled with the task of exhibiting every single possible tumultuous feeling or emotion that a girl of Lady Bird’s age may experience, and she deftly hits them all. The stubborn and abrasive nature of the character could have led to audiences revolting against her, but Gerwig and Ronan are able to bring such honesty and heart to Lady Bird that it is hard not to feel for her and root for her, despite some misguided decisions and actions.
Though Ronan is the unmistakable star of the film, Lady Bird’s story cannot exist without the supporting characters of her life, especially her mother, Marion, played by the inimitable Laurie Metcalfe. As Marion, Metcalfe is able to be all the things a mother of a teenage girl often is, for better or for worse. What sets her apart from so many previous on-screen mothers is that she is neither just a strict authoritarian, nor is she simply a gentle and caring soul. She is many different facets in one complete package, a strict mother who is able to have fun with her daughter in between moments of scolding or condescension.
Like Lady Bird, Marion is unapologetically herself, which leads to many clashes between the mother-daughter duo, but also a silent kinship between the two. It is so refreshing to see a mother-daughter relationship that is neither that of best friends, nor that of enemies — a realistic portrayal of two people bound by unconditional love, even if that live does not always translate to liking one another. It is in this relationship that the film lives more than anywhere else, and elevates the film far above others that try to tackle the perplexing period of life that is adolescence.