I feel an enormous sense of gratitude when art surfaces that does not trivialise the experiences and sentiments of the adolescent girl or young woman. With Lady Bird, I showed up for rose-haired Saoirse Ronan, but stuck around for one of the most beautiful and brilliant films I’ve seen in recent years. And then came back, twice.
The emotional core of Lady Bird is of course the warring relationship between a mother and daughter, but the film tackles so much more in its depiction of a lower-middle-class family in the suburbs of post-9/11 Sacramento. The genius of Lady Bird is that its truth doesn't come at the cost of humour, and its humour not at the cost of a deeply moving vertebrae.
Aside from everything else - its sensitivity, freshness, subtlety - it’s a really funny film, playfully poking fun at its adolescent protagonist in a way that manages to feel self-deprecating rather than patronising. This, I think, is Greta Gerwig’s greatest success as a writer and director. Lady Bird isn’t a portrait of the teenager from the nostalgic adult, nor is it a defiant jab at a parent’s misunderstandings or failure to relate. It sees Saoirse Ronan’s character as Christine, but understands her best as ‘Lady Bird’, an identifier given to herself, by herself.
As I get a little bit older, it’s tempting to look back at everyone I ever was through the often cruel lens of retrospect. It’s as though every fresh version of myself can only materialise through the deconstruction (see: destruction) of my former self.
But there are some things - like dancing to Lorde, reading Tavi Gevinson, and now watching Lady Bird - that allow you to gather up all these former selves and hold them close to your heart. A personhood made up of multitudes - battling, contradicting, but coexisting.
We do ourselves a disservice when we dismiss all the things we ever thought or felt simply because they don't marry with our current system of beliefs. When we remember falling in love for the first time, aged thirteen or sixteen or twenty, this love doesn't lose its value simply because time and experience have caused our definitions to evolve.
Lady Bird drew my attention to something that I didn’t realise I was seeing so little of, but desperately needed. I want more unapologetically feminine art. More books and films and music and paintings that explore the complexities of young womanhood without resorting to reductive and lazy stereotypes. More Lady Birds, more Melodramas.
And what you can’t find? Create.