It’s a familiar concept for actors to stretch their creativity by becoming directors. Clint Eastwood, George Clooney, Mel Gibson, Ben Affleck and Jon Favreau all have gone behind the lens to tell their stories, to name a few. Greta Gerwig, known best for roles in a plethora of indies, is the latest to take the director’s chair with a semi-autobiographical coming of age story which is touching and honest. Lady Bird, stars Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf, and chronicles the senior year of a teenager struggling to find herself while she yearns for a life away from her Sacramento hometown. Both Ronan and Metcalf are fantastic as mother and daughter, showing the complexities of the parent-child relationship without getting dark, campy or trite.

Admittedly, Lady Bird relates more closely with daughters with love-hate relationships with their mothers. Ronan plays Lady Bird, a moniker she gave to herself and insists everyone address her as. Her mother, Marion (played impeccably by Metcalf), works as a counselor, and has to juggle paying all the family bills with raising and caring for them. Tracy Letts plays Larry, Lady Bird’s unemployed father who’s typically the mediator during the multitude of mother-daughter spats. What’s more pressing is Lady Bird’s life as she tries to survive her senior year at an all-girls Catholic school.

Lady Bird stresses about the typical things – school, boys, college, growing up, and pressure from parents and friends. Lady Bird, along with her best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein), joins the drama program where she meets and falls for Danny (Manchester By the Sea’s Lucas Hedges), a student at the nearby all-boys Catholic school. Lady Bird is all about Danny but eventually they break up and she sets her sites on the edgy musician, Kyle (Timothée Chalamet). While Lady Bird works on her love life, she clamors for popularity, latching onto the popular girl Jenna (Odeya Rush), leaving Julie behind in the process. Finally, Lady Bird desperately wants to attend college in New York City because she hates Sacramento.

I mentioned earlier that the mother-daughter dynamic between Lady Bird and Marion speaks more to women than men, but there are plenty of issues that speak to everyone. The awkwardness of courting and the possibility of losing one’s virginity are universally relatable themes. Dealing with the complexities of high school is another one, since that chapter can be a minefield.

Coming from a Catholic school background I was able to relate to Lady Bird and her days spent at a Catholic prep school. I also related to the stresses of college applications and choosing what essentially is your future. That is a huge part of teenager’s life, and it’s both interesting and surreal to see how Lady Bird handles everything.

And regardless of gender, being a difficult teen is almost a rite of passage. I’ve fought with my parents growing up, and I hated being nagged seemingly all the time. Just like Lady Bird, though, I was thinking only of myself and didn’t see the big picture. My parents did what they did out of love, and Gerwig does a great job in conveying that. You could tell Marion was exasperated with Lady Bird and her antics, but she never stopped caring and loving her daughter. Besides dealing with Lady Bird, Marion worked all the time so she could provide for the entire family, which includes her son Miguel (Jordan Rodrigues) and his girlfriend Shelly (Marielle Scott) - there were plenty of people to tend to.

Although on the surface Lady Bird seems like a typical coming of age tale, Gerwig offers a fresh perspective in regards to the plight of adolescence. She’s more of a storyteller than a technical director, but that’s a definite plus because Hollywood needs more storytellers. As mentioned, Lady Bird is an honest portrait which provides excellent performances, organic humor and relatable drama that isn’t too moody or dark.

The soundtrack is lovely, filled with songs which you can tell spoke to Gerwig when she was growing up. Since Gerwig also wrote the script, she is proving herself a strong screenwriter, too.

Lady Bird is a great companion piece to Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, and is also one of the year’s best films. Despite it being more of a talk piece, it paces well due to its light tone. For mothers and daughters this is must-see, but I recommend this to anyone.

4.5 stars out of 5


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