Film Review: Lady Bird

Rachel Attenborough reviews 2018 film Lady Bird (written and directed by Greta Gerwig)

Lady Bird likely needs little introduction. Garnishing almost universal critical praise, Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, starring Saoirse Ronan, tells the story of eccentric adolescent Christine ‘Lady Bird’ McPherson, growing up on the (literal) wrong side of the tracks in Sacramento, as she wiles away her final school days and prepares to go to college. It is a beautifully shot, heartfelt, coming-of-age drama and a love letter to the importance and power of female relationships. I’ve been a fan of Gerwig’s since her first feature Frances Ha and I knew I was going to love Lady Bird before I’d even bought my popcorn. The script is witty and heart-breaking and sharply observant. Growing up in the suburbs and, like Lady Bird, going to an all-girls school, I could relate with warm nostalgia to the fierce friendships and chasing boys, to the giddy joy and the crushing fear that comes with growing-up. I was also excited by the clear feminist love at the heart of the film; Lady Birds’ core relationships are with her hard-working mother Marion and her best friend Julie. Both relationships are rocky, both are challenging, both are worth it. In Lady Bird, boys are selfish and fleeting, men though dependable are dependants. There’s no denying this a film by women, staring women, about women. I was therefore surprised when Lady Bird lost all five of the Oscars it was nominated for. With the pro-feminist energies around Hollywood at the moment; surely this was the year when such an openly female-led production would triumph? On reflection, my own fandom may have clouded my judgement. The film of course, isn’t perfect. Gerwig’s naiveté behind the camera is sometimes apparent and at just over an hour and a half Lady Bird wilts slightly in comparison to the Academy’s ultimate choice for ‘Best Picture’; Guillermo del Toro’s reimagined Beauty and the Beast love story The Shape of Water.  Yet I personally found Lady Bird’s flaws part of its charm and in a time when Gerwig is still, in the 90th year of the Academy Awards only the 5th woman to ever be nominated for Best Director, I think its important to acknowledge the influence of this film and the scope of its accomplishments.  Lady Bird may be a narrow, quirky, simple story but its unassuming honesty and genuine humour made it a film I can’t wait to watch again. 


Rachel is currently studying for her MSt in Women’s Studies with research specialising in the construction of female identities and sexualities in Twentieth and Twenty-First Century literature. Having studied English with Drama and Education at Cambridge for her undergraduate degree, she is interested in promoting both emerging and reclaimed areas of women’s stories and histories, with particular focus on Young Adult fiction and autobiographical writing.