The Catcher in the Rye. Boyhood. The 400 Blows. The coming-of-age story is popular for portraying the universal struggles of growing up. Greta Gerwig’s loosely autobiographical breakout dramedy Lady Bird is a transcendental journey through Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson’s (Saoirse Ronan) senior year of high school, as she grapples with relationships, college admissions, friendships, and most importantly her relationship with her mother, Marion McPherson (Laurie Metcalf).
The film grossed $70 million worldwide since its release in November, and won a Golden Globe award for Best Motion Picture. This comes as no surprise, with experienced actresses Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf portraying the lead roles. Ronan has starred in other award-winning productions such as Brooklyn and The Crucible on Broadway, while Metcalf has starred in a variety of sitcoms, Broadway musicals, and movies over her long career, including Roseanne and Stephen King adaptation Misery. Unlike most films, Ronan manages to avoid the cliche of portraying young women as catty, and instead makes her character have depth as she deals with her mother. In relation to their casting, Gerwig said in an interview with Deadline, “I just saw right away that there was some spirit in both of them that they were equally matched.”
Perhaps the most important conflict between Christine and her mother is attending a prestigious East Coast university. Throughout the movie, Christine expresses distaste about her hometown of Sacramento, California, and has a slightly snobbish desire to “go where culture is, like New York” or “at least Connecticut or New Hampshire, where writers live in the woods.” Christine applies to the East Coast colleges against her mother’s wishes, starting a long grudge that carries on until the end of the movie.
Christine tries to reinvent herself and to distance herself from her mother for most of the film. Her self-given nickname, “Ladybird” is a testament to this. However, unlike most female protagonists Ladybird does not end with a relationship and Christine does not define herself through one. In fact, her relationship with Kyle (Timothée Chalamet) makes her realize how ridiculous it is to try to change herself to please other people. Instead, the movie focuses on Christine’s tumultuous yet warm relationship with her mother. Christine’s fulfilling moment is not when she reunites with her lover, but instead when she introduces herself to her new friends as Christine and calls her mother to express her gratitude. Casady sophomore Saadia Nazir says, “[Ladybird] made me reflect on all of the relationships in my life, especially with my mother.”
Chock-full of both sweet and tension-filled moments between Christine and both her peers and family, Ladybird offers a truthful depiction of growing up. Ladybird establishes itself a must-see because it is a refreshing and real take on the young female experience.