“Lady Bird” Film Review

Writer Sophia Zhang shares her analysis and thoughts on the 2017 coming-of-age film.


Merie Wallace/A24

A scene from Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird,” in which Saoirse Ronan plays the titular character.

Sophia Zhang

“Lady Bird” somehow manages to perfectly toe the line between the real and absurd. Opening with a scene of a senior high schooler–Christine, (Saorise Ronan) also known as Lady Bird, (her name was “given to me, by me”) and her mother driving home from visiting a college campus, the two shed tears while listening to the last sentence of the audiobook Grapes of Wrath. Almost immediately after, an argument starts with an iconic line, “I wish I could live through something” and ends with Lady Bird opening the car door and throwing herself out. It’s an action that I’m sure many of us have entertained and dreamed of. But Lady Bird actually did it.

Spunky, cowardly, thoughtful, thoughtless, sharp, naive, arrogant, self-deprecating, Lady Bird is deliciously complex and real. All of the characters in the film are. While at first glance they may seem like paper cut-outs–the wannabe hipster love interest, the nagging mom, the depressed dad, the Populars, the “hip” teacher, and the closeted perfect boyfriend, Gerwig treats each with delicacy and compassion and makes them unbelievably three-dimensional. Yes, each is made fun of, but none cruelly.

These characters all come together to weave a classic but exquisite coming-of-age tale. We follow Lady Bird through the trials and tribulations of teenagerdom that we’ve all seen before–dating, losing your virginity, applying to college, financial hardship, familial tension, losing friends, but Gerwig manages to tell each story differently and in a fresh way.

Lady Bird consistently expresses her wish to escape her hometown of Sacramento, the “Midwest of California,” for the East Coast, “where the culture is” by going to college there. Unfortunately, considering her family’s financial strain after her dad loses her job, her mother, Marion Mcpherson (Laurie Metcalf) instead pushes Lady Bird to go to an in-state University where tuition would be cheaper. Marion works double shifts at work, does the bulk of the housework, and is extra-ordinarily frank and passive-aggressive about the troubles in the family. She also seems to consistently pick out faults in almost everything Lady Bird does. As the movie goes on, the gap between the mother-daughter pair also widens.

Yet it is in this relationship that Gerwig poignantly posits that love is attention. Marion can only nag so much because she pays so much attention to Lady Bird. After all, she wants to make sure that Lady Bird is the “best version of herself.” This is simply her love language. Similarly, regardless of how Lady Bird puts down Sacramento, she does care for the city. “You clearly love Sacramento,” Sister Sarah Joan (Lois Smith) says to Lady Bird after reading her college essay that she had written with such attention to detail. In a way, the attention paid to detail and scenic shots in “Lady Bird” are representative of Gerwig’s own love for Sacramento, her hometown. “Lady Bird” is in a way Gerwig’s love letter to Sacramento.

There is also much delightful humor to be found. The irony of Kyle Scheible (Timothee Chalamet) saying with all seriousness that “I don’t like money” and that “I’m trying to live off bartering alone” all while living a life of comfort and attending a costly private school was simply impeccable.

Despite the coming of age tale being such an oversaturated and overdone genre, Gerwig has managed to create something absolutely fresh and new. Dazzlingly witty, funny, happy, sad, relatable, and strangely authentic, “Lady Bird” evokes a myriad of emotions and can hit unnervingly close to home. More than just that, it teaches us valuable lessons that we could all use. It truly is a movie like no other.