BY FIEL ESTRELLA
On paper, actress Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial debut Lady Bird, which is up for five Academy Award nominations, appears to be just another example of the well-tread genre of the coming-of-age film: a teenager enters her senior year of high school, loses her virginity, alienates her best friend, has a complicated relationship with her mother, and wants to go off to a faraway city that’s a big and bright as her dreams. On the screen, however, it proves to be anything but ordinary.
Set in 2002 and filmed in the director’s hometown of Sacramento, California, the film, which she also wrote, is a love letter to and a reflection on Gerwig’s own youth. Through this lens, Lady Bird is given an edge, but also a certain tenderness—coming from someone who knows exactly what it’s like to be a teen girl, the title character becomes both an affectionate caricature (she’s brash, bold, and too stubborn and idealistic for her own good) and a refreshingly realistic heroine (she lives through her mistakes, learns from them, and grows through them).
Lady Bird sets itself apart by being more involved in the lives of its supporting characters than the average high school movie. It also explores plot threads such as her father’s depression and her drama teacher’s grief, and touches on topics like sexuality, drug use, and unconventional families without feeling like an after-school special.
Girls her age now will learn from her; women who were once as young as she is will see their old selves in her and be grateful for their personal growth and progress.
Furthermore, her mother is as much a protagonist as Lady Bird herself. Gerwig has said that Lady Bird’s passage into adulthood is a direct parallel to the difficulty her mom experiences in letting her go and be her own person. They have the sort of close bond that allows them to enjoy hours of listening to a Grapes of Wrath audiobook during a road trip and have the offbeat joint hobby of going to open houses on weekends, but like most mothers and daughters, they tend to see things from vastly different perspectives. An excellent illustration of this point happens when they go dress shopping for the formal and end up pointedly arguing while simultaneously fawning over a gorgeous dress. Through each other, they learn the value of compromise and compassion.
Lady Bird, born Christine, is the type of opinionated, confident, and creative young woman who insists that everybody call her by a different name and dyes her hair pink. She’s ambitious and headstrong, hungry for culture and experience, convinced that she’s meant for more. Gerwig’s lead character, played by Academy Award nominee Saoirse Ronan, is well-defined and true to life, never too “quirky” or overbearing. Girls her age now will learn from her; women who were once as young as she is will see their old selves in her and be grateful for their personal growth and progress.
Not all of us know what it’s like to fling ourselves out of a moving car just to prove a point, but we do know how it feels to hold on to a song for dear life or to want to be “enough,” whether as a parent, a child, a lover, a friend, a person. We all know what it’s like not to have a single idea what’s going on (although we walk around pretending we do) and what it’s like to hope it all turns out okay.
Lady Bird is a coming-of-age story for people who have already come of age—and what makes it resonate is exactly what it is that makes it special.
Lady Bird opens on February 28 at select Ayala Malls cinemas.