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Byron Shire
May 13, 2021

Lady Bird

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The poster says a lot. It is of Saoirse Ronin (as the eponymous Lady Bird) in profile. For all the world it might be a Madonna by Piero della Francesca. And if you still haven’t caught on, there is a crucifix in the top right. Christine, who wishes to be known as Lady Bird, is in her last year of high school. Desperate to escape the stifling ordinariness of Sacramento, she hopes to be accepted by a college in the East, but her grades are poor. Despite her Catholic education, she has not attained the serenity of Piero’s Madonna and, constantly at war with her harried mother (Laurie Metcalf), the family breadwinner, Lady Bird is a crazy mixed-up kid – not unlike Nadine from Edge of Seventeen. Greta Gerwig’s autobiographical coming-of-age film captures teenage angst perfectly, but in a way that neither irritates nor i ngratiates. Lady Bird just wants to know where she is going to fit in, because it is not where she is at the moment. This is a performance of beautiful clarity from Ronin (her first name is pronounced ‘Sersha’), expressing her character’s confusion, fragility and spikiness without ever presenting her as anything but her own, likeable person. The mother–daughter conflict is at the core of Ladybird’s problems – she is as stubborn and volatile as her Mom – while at the same time she is having to cope with the anxieties of sexual awakening. Surprisingly, Gerwig goes against the trend and presents the Church as a positive influence – Lady Bird is not religious, but she is in a caring environment in which the teachers, including ancient nuns, are not seen as ogres. Because you find yourself so quickly caring for Lady Bird and absorbed in her relationships (I could see the problem with Danny a mile off and I especially liked the bond she had with her bestie, Julie) and her age-old plight, which is as profound as it is simple, it is one of those movies that flies by. Warm, forgiving and true


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