Lady Bird is Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut and her first solo writing credit. It’s a film very personal to Gerwig, set in her hometown and in the same year she would’ve been a senior in high school. It’s a story that feels authentically hers, containing shades of the same protagonist she played in the wonderful Frances Ha (2013) which she co-wrote with Noah Baumbach. The seventeen-year-old titular protagonist, played by Saoirse Ronan, has a lot in common with Gerwig. Both are from Sacramento, and both moved to New York for school.
Something about Lady Bird feels like a ticking time bomb. She’s willing to try just about anything, and has so much to learn at the start of the film, despite insisting that “the learning part of high school is over.” Lady Bird is a character with convictions, impulses and subtle empathy. This is a coming-of-age story and by the end, our hero demonstrates immense growth, fulfilling a lot of what her parents see in her and what we glimpse in passing early on in the movie.
Throughout, Lady Bird experiments with life and with people. She has brief flings with two boys, both of which fail for different reasons; ditches her best friend for someone cooler but ultimately less interesting; works in secret with her father to help secure financial aid to send her to college on the east coast, against her mother’s wishes. Although Lady desperately wishes to leave Sacramento for the majority of the film, by the end she finally accepts where she’s come from and who she is. It’s a kind of self-acceptance very common to this type of story but which never goes out of style.
There’s always something so appealing and comforting about coming-of-age stories, which typically follow young, misdirected characters on a quest through which they learn to accept themselves and the people around them. You have to embrace what’s behind you, to have any chance of moving forward. These characters, like Lady Bird, grow up just a little bit and begin to validate their own existence. As cheesy as it may sound, Lady Bird proves to us that it’s not about wanting to be somewhere else, do something else or even be someone else; it’s about being who you are. Gerwig reminds us of all those special moments in our own lives - the ones shared with others or only with oneself. A movie like this has such mass appeal because everyone can recognize themselves in Lady Bird’s journey.