As I walked out of Lady Bird, I said to my friend, Saoirse Ronan coming of age with messy love interests and a strong thread of New York is my ideal genre. I imagine that sounds hyperbolic. It isn’t. As far apart as they might seem, Brooklyn and Lady Bird hit all the same buttons. And they both filled me up the way only a rare and wonderful piece of cinema can.
Writer-director Greta Gerwig’s first feature is a treasure. This might be her first foray behind the camera, but Gerwig has lived at the collision of indie kitsch and dramatic prowess for a while now. And that often grasped at (but rarely) achieved sensibility is all over Lady Bird, a vulnerable, insightful, delightful story about mothers and daughters. Specifically, daughters coming of age and coming to understand why it is women who’ve been there get a little misty and nostalgic when they recall those seemingly endless days trapped in limbo between the intoxicating throes of adolescence and the humbling pangs of early adulthood. It’s also a story that will make you want to listen to The Dave Matthews Band again. Unironically.
We meet Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) on a road trip with her mother (Laurie Metcalf). It’s a college visit, in-state to Lady Bird’s chagrin, but the drive was still long enough for them to listen to the audiobook of The Grapes of Wrath. Struck by what they’ve just heard, Lady Bird declares that she wants to live through something. Her mother, exasperated, asks, “aren’t you already?” And then comes the response. “2002 is only interesting because it’s a palindrome.” I don’t know if teens of other eras shared this feeling (I imagine they did), but I know that sentiment defined my early aughts teendom. Lady Bird is a few years my senior, but every touchpoint of her world was one I recognized as part of my own, and thank goodness Gerwig had the grace not to polish the past. Instead, her vision is unfiltered and honest, and the more timeless for it.
The film takes us through Lady Bird’s senior year, and beyond, and we watch as she navigates first loves, socioeconomic disparity and self-identity. Every beat is familiar, every emotion earned and every note is pitch perfect. Lady Bird is so lovely, it’s almost impossible to pinpoint the precise source of all that joy. To be sure, Ronan and Metcalf are due serious kudos for their inexpressibly perfect mother-daughter dynamic. But there’s also the warts-and-all embrace of the recent past. And the graceful perspective that manages not to judge youth, but rather to celebrate it as a magical time, even if it’s one most of us couldn’t be paid to revisit.
Look, I could go on about everything that right here (including the bordering on ubiquitous Lucas Hedges and Timothee Chalamet), but instead, I’m going to divert my digital ink to a simple challenge: Just go see Lady Bird. And the sooner the better. If you go now, you can still squeeze into the group of people who will spend the entire awards season saying, “I told you so,” and “I saw Lady Bird ages ago, but I also saw it last week, cause I was jealous of everyone seeing it for the first time.”
And speaking of that fleeting first watch, I know I can’t ever experience this movie while I’m of an age with Lady Bird — though I don’t hesitate to say I would have watched it religiously — so I’ll have to content myself with making sure other young girls do get a chance to do so. I don’t pretend to know if this movie will win all of the awards it deserves (basically all of them), but I promise it’s going to be one I recommend for years and years to come.