This quietly wonderful coming-of-age dramedy finds the sweet spot between Wes Anderson's Rushmore (1998) and the works of John Hughes, ably reflecting the enormity of teenage emotions while resisting the urge to mythologise or stylise the high-school years.
Saoirse Ronan (The Lovely Bones), stars as Christine, a restless teenager growing up in Sacramento, a city she describes as "the mid-west of California". That she prefers to go by the name Lady Bird says plenty about her casually iconoclastic nature, even if she isn't beyond some classic, petty teenage social ambitions. As her senior year comes to a close, Christine frets over whether or not she will ever escape her hometown.
Hanging over all of this is Christine's complicated relationship with her mother, Marion, who is played to perfection by Laurie Metcalf (Roseanne).
On paper, there isn't a huge amount here to distinguish this from other teenage character studies, but writer/director Greta Gerwig, heretofore best known for acting in films such as Arthur and Frances Ha (which she also co-wrote), infuses the film with a personal specificity that rings truer than most high school-set films. The kids here aren't overly articulate or wise, even if they clearly see themselves that way. There's a clear-eyed relatability to their awkward interactions that elevates the film.
Lady Bird is nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture. Although only Ronan and Metcalf got acting nods, the whole cast deserves recognition for their grounding performances, especially playwright Tracy Letts as Christine's dad and Beanie Feldstein (Jonah Hill's little sister) as her best pal, Julie. Call Me By Your Name's Timothee Chalamet is also great as a pretentious love interest, judiciously deploying his smouldering glances.
Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts
R13 (Drug use, sex scenes & offensive language)
Grounded, personal, profound.