Greta Gerwig’s directional debut hit me like a tonne of bricks and whilst it’s a perfect telling of modern-day teenage experiences it does have its nags.
Marion McPherson (Laurie Metcalfe), a nurse, works tirelessly to keep her family afloat after her husband loses his job. She also maintains a turbulent bond with a teenage daughter (Saoirse Ronan) who is just like her: loving, strong-willed and deeply opinionated.
The movie revolves around the character Ladybird (Ronan) who has given herself this unusual name (not her birth name) to show individuality to the world and all that other millennial bullshit that comes with the majority of the self-entitled youth of today (I’m 26 by the way).
We get to see Ladybird’s home life, her strictly religious catholic school life and her rebellious narcissistic nature to defy everyone and everything around her as she goes in search of love, sex and freedom. The movie plays out like a Kevin and Perry montage with Ladybird constantly fighting with her mother (Metcalfe) and taking out her teenage angst on random boys who show a teeny bit of interest in her.
The frayed parental relationship is perfectly developed as not only do you see the fights but you see the toll it takes on both parties as the story progresses. That’s refreshing to see but despite the depth, this film has I just can’t quite fully invest in this arrogant young teen runaway. This overly dramatic piece never feels realistic and the second it does start feeling relatable we get over the top displays of tantrum such as flinging oneself out of a car just to avoid a confrontation with her mother. I get that it’s trying to show that rebellious carefree ‘I don’t give a fuck’ attitude but it just seems forced in many places and most certainly not grounded in these particular moments.
At times the movie is genuinely hilarious and in a quick twist turns dark, cruel, raw and deeply emotional at the drop of a hat. This rollercoaster of emotion rolls the clocks back as I feel like I’m in the shoes of how I felt as a teen. Confused by the world, uncertain of the future (not like I’m certain now by any means) and all the pressures and craziness that comes with school, sex, relationships and all the rest of it! In Ladybird we go through her losing her virginity to breakups, crushing on the popular kid at school, losing her best friend, hanging out with people who aren’t good influences for her. We get the full teenage package here.
Gerwig creates a beautifully emotional world as we go hand in hand with Ladybird on her emotional (if albeit exaggerated) journey to find herself.
Like mentioned above the downside to me was the character. This stick-on attitude that reminded me of Aubrey Plaza in every role she’s ever done, ever. Awkward to watch, awkward to wrap your head around and just plain awkward to like in most cases (sorry Aubrey). I felt a disconnect to the film not just because I’m a guy and I can’t relate to a young girls journey but because Ladybird as a whole wasn’t a likeable character for the most part of the film. She ditches her best friend at the drop of a hat, she treats people like crap and yet some people found this charming. I’m afraid I didn’t. However, as the film progresses and Ladybird gets her wings so to speak, then and only then does this annoying little brat becoming endearing.
Then and only then does the movie start to really shine brightly.
Skilful storytelling and a stellar performance by Saoirse Ronan makes Ladybird one to watch.
Once you can put up with that over-the-top teenage attitude of course.