Greta Gerwig's first film as a solo director is a wise and witty charmer, starring Saoirse Ronan
Is there no end to the talents of Greta Gerwig? The star and co-writer of Frances Ha proves herself a noteworthy director with Lady Bird. Her first project as a solo helmer – following Nights and Weekends, her 2008 collaboration with Joe Swanberg – is a sure-footed, semi-autobiographical coming-of-age charmer told with a generous spirit and an acute understanding of human nature.
Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) is a 17-year-old from the wrong side of the tracks, stranded in suburban Sacramento and dreaming of the great life that surely awaits her just over the horizon. She has given herself the name of 'Lady Bird'. Meanwhile, in the real world she has to tolerate her hypercritical mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf) and an existence that stubbornly refuses to live up to her expectations.
The winner of two Golden Globes, now nominated for five Oscars, Lady Bird is often screamingly funny as it charts its protagonist's giddy journey through the weeks and months of her final year at school and the agony and ecstasy of college applications. Lady Bird gains new friends, loses her virginity, makes all the character-forming mistakes of youth and constantly tussles with a mother who finds it easier to nitpick than express the love she clearly holds.
A valentine to the golden summer glow of Sacramento, Lady Bird has the sweet soul of a John Hughes film and the wit of a Woody Allen. Gerwig has a wonderful affection for her characters and their failings and gets the most from a very cool cast that includes Lucas Hedges from Manchester by the Sea and blazing new talent Timothée Chalamet from Call Me by Your Name. Metcalf brings out all the complex, tough-love emotions of Marion and Ronan makes Lady Bird a believable and hugely endearing figure.
Wise, witty and breezing along life's highway on a blast of sunny optimism, this is just the film to banish those winter blues.
Selected release from Fri 16 Feb. General release from Fri 23 Feb.