Greta Gerwig has downplayed suggestions that this film is strictly autobiographical, saying, “Nothing in the movie literally happened in my life, but it has a core of truth that resonates with what I know.” But because Lady Bird has so many relatable moments and effortlessly compelling performances, it often feels completely real.
Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) is a high school senior who prides herself on being different from her family and friends. She insists they call her “Lady Bird” because it sounds more bohemian than her birth name, and snobbishly dismisses her hometown, Sacramento, as “the Midwest of California”. Her overworked mother, Marion (played by Roseanne’s Laurie Metcalf), wants her to attend a local college to save money, but Lady Bird is determined to apply to fancier establishments on the East Coast, despite her patchy academic record. While butting heads with her mum, and working out which school clique she belongs in, Lady Bird enjoys romantic dalliances with a pretentious indie boy (Call Me By Your Name’s Timothée Chalamet) and a conflicted musical theatre kid (Manchester By The Sea’s Lucas Hedges).
Though Lady Bird is a coming-of-age story with familiar tropes such as prom night and a disappointing first sexual experience, it’s really a film about teenage aspiration. Gerwig understands the gap between the person you are and the person you dream of becoming. Ronan and Metcalf are heartbreaking as a mother and daughter who can’t quite meet in the middle, but Lady Bird enthrals because its smaller roles are also beautifully played. It’s a clever, affecting film that’s a total pleasure to watch.