Deborah Ross

Relative values

The plot of Greta Gerwig's film is, basically: girl has a mum – but compared to Guillermo del Toro's latest, Lady Bird is blissful in being so non-didactic

Lady Bird is a semi-autobiographical film written and directed by Greta Gerwig with a plot synopsis that need not detain us as it is basically only this: girl has a mum. (Or: girl has a mum, and sometimes they row and sometimes they don’t.) But thus far it has won near universal critical praise, two Golden Globes and five Oscar nominations, thereby proving there is mileage in girls and their mums, and box office in girls and their mums, and that girls and their mums can be more than mere afterthoughts. In this respect, Lady Bird may, in fact, be quite the rare bird.

It’s set in Sacramento, California, in 2002, and follows a year in the life of 17-year-old Christine McPherson, who calls herself ‘Lady Bird’ because she is, you know, At That Age. (I called myself ‘Debee’ At That Age.) She is played by Saoirse Ronan who was wonderful in Brooklyn and is as wonderful here. (She can carry emotional weight lightly, as if it were the most natural thing in the world.) The year is recounted via a series of vignettes as Lady Bird attends her Catholic high school, attends the school dances (one of the nuns patrols the dance floor, separating couples with the edict ‘six inches for the Holy Spirit!’), dates boys, loses her virginity (sit on that, Holy Spirit!), applies for colleges, ditches her best friend for a ‘better’ one, attempts to hide her modest background, and so on. An ordinary, uneventful life, except that it is full of event, as ordinary lives are when you bother to look properly. But through it all, and at the heart of it all, it is: girl has a mum. Whom she sometimes rows with and sometimes doesn’t.

Her mother, Marion, is played by Laurie Metcalf, who is also wonderful, and has been wonderful ever since she played Jackie in Roseanne all those moons ago.

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