Little Women Review

On my journey home from the office before seeing this film, I decided to watch a trailer to give myself an idea of what I was in for. I must be honest, the trailer did nothing for me. An hour later, I was in the cinema ready to experience the film for myself and tried to cast the shadow of a trailer that made it seem like a generic love story out of my head. 

I remember seeing the Suicide Squad trailer and being extremely excited. The action was cut to the beat of the music, and Jared Leto looked mental as The Joker. Of course, when I saw the film, I discovered it was a mess. Well Little Women is similar to Suicide Squad in one way:

This film should not be judged by its trailer.

Little Women is based on a novel of the same name by author Louisa May Alcott in the 1800s, and it has been adapted for the silver screen, the small screen and the stage countless times over the last 100+ years. When a story has that kind of staying power, you know there must be something to it. I knew nothing more of the story going in than it was based on a popular book but coming out I can see why this story has resonated with people for so long.

Telling the story of 4 sisters who all have their own dreams and the film jumps between their formative teen years and their young adult lives. Set in the 1860s, a period I normally struggle to get immersed in, we follow Jo March, played by Saoirse (Sersha) Ronan, as she tries to make her own way in the world. I won’t say much more as a lot of people will already know the story from the book. If you don’t know it, you get to experience it all like I did. With no idea what was coming next.

Top of the things to praise in this movie is the cast. Leading the line is the aforementioned Saoirse Ronan, and she is phenomenal. I have only seen her in one film before this, Lady Bird in 2017, and she impressed there and has improved to the point where she is now one of the best young actresses working. She has been nominated for two academy awards already, and more are bound to be on their way, with a win not far off I am sure.

Backing her up, and rivalling her for the title of best young actress around, is Florence Pugh, fresh off her great performance in Fighting with my Family earlier in 2019, she plays a completely different character here and still owns all the scenes she is in. Meryl Streep and Laura Dern are both exceptional as well, and the other sisters Emma Watson and Eliza Scanlen both do decent jobs, the former starting to show she might not always be instantly recognised as Hermione. I know that’s more of a problem in my own head with just associating her with that character, but this is the first time I have seen her and really bought her as any other character.

Timothee Chalamet, pronounced Timotay Chalomay, is the main male presence, and he continues to be an ageless quantity. He can look any age between 10 & 30. I haven’t seen him in too much, just Lady Bird that I can recall, but he shows in Little Women why he is being expected to become a huge star. He is charming at times, and then borders on creepy and unnerving when the moment requires it.

It’s not too often I praise a score in a movie. I don’t tend to talk about them too much unless there is a real stand out moment where the score shines, but in this film I found the use of the score, and at times the use of silence, to be extremely powerful and it really helped with setting the tone of each scene.

There is a key scene in this film that is one of those “That is why I watch movies” moments for me. It’s a scene which nearly got me to tearing up, in which there are no words. The combination in the scene of the score, the cinematography, and the actor’s performances are all you need to feel all of what is happening and that is when Little Women is at its best.

The scene nearly got me to tear up, but didn’t, and a reason for that is because it comes so soon after another which meant I was still kind of processing it. It really comes down to the decision to split this story in 2 timelines, and that device, whilst it used well throughout, felt a bit out of place in that scene. To be honest it’s not a huge problem, but I noticed it in the cinema, and I can’t help but feel it could have had even more impact.

The other element of this film I wasn’t too keen on was the Love story element. I won’t elaborate to avoid spoilers, but there are events towards the end of the film that didn’t quite play out in a way that fit with the characters. Writer Director Greta Gerwig does try to get around this in a quite clever way, but the ambiguity at the end left a little bit of a blemish on this otherwise great picture.

I said in my review of JoJo Rabbit that “Films are at their best when they make you feel emotions”. Little Women achieves that, gives us a great world to live in for a little bit and throws in some characters you will be invested in. With all that going for it, Little Women is one of the better films you can see in cinema’s right now.

Good: An excellent cast put in great work, beautiful cinematography and an expertly used score. Emotional ride will hit people.

Bad: Love story element was a little unearned and ambiguous at the end.

9/10 – Little Women, Big Score. 




Lady Bird Review

Lady Bird did, for a time, maintain a perfect rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and that kind of hype led me to have quite high expectations for the film. I knew nothing about the film, beyond its name and that it was about a girl. I had no idea about the tone or themes of the film and was intrigued to learn what all the hype was about.

At its core Lady Bird is a story about a girl coming of age, and the relationship between her and her mother through this tough time. As with most teenage girl coming of age stories, there is a love story element, but the film doesn’t focus on that aspect. In fact it almost refuses to focus on any one element entirely, and instead shows you various different moments in Ladybird’s life and expects you to keep up with the pace and quick editing.

It is a shorter film, coming in at just over 90 minutes, but it packs in a lot in that time. This is excellent film making, with scenes often starting midway through a conversation but still giving enough context to allow us to keep up with what’s happening. Writer and director Greta Gerwig deserves a lot of praise for this and deserved her nomination at the academy awards, she possibly would have been my pick for best director if I was a voter myself.

The girl we follow, and the titular role, is played by Saoirse Ronan. Don’t worry, I have no idea how to pronounce that either. She is surrounded by an excellent supporting cast, with the mother Marion played by Laurie Metcalf and love interest Danny being particularly strong. Every character feels believable, meaning it feels very real and raw, and you find yourself hooked on the story.

I think this is a bit of a frankenstein movie. Part dark comedy, part Romance, part coming of age, and part drama, it manages to make it all work and this results in the film having something for everyone. You follow Ladybird on her journey growing up and all the questions teenagers face, without falling into the traps of cliché. Again it all feels very real, coming across as a look at a bunch of real people who just happen to be on film.

It is so honest and true to life that it may not have that escapism that some desire in their movies. I know some people want to be taken on a journey and allowed to forget the ups and downs of real life. Ladybird is not that kind of film, and there are several moments that you watch unfold which are directly relatable to things you will have experienced in your own life. I can only imagine this applies even more if you’re a girl who grew up in the early 2000s, especially at a catholic school similar to the one in the film.

Given the hype after its rotten tomatoes score, I think Lady Bird is still a surprising film that will really give you food for thought. Excellent performances and great direction combine to make this one of the best of the years oscar contenders, It may have been beaten to the Best Picture gong by the fantastical Shape of Water, but Lady Bird’s realistic story holds its own regardless.

Good: An accurate portrayal of life, without becoming too cheesy or cliché. Greta Gerwig’s direction and Saoirse Ronan’s performance elevate it beyond others in the coming of age genre.

Bad: Maybe a little too realistic for those that want an escape.

9/10 – Excellent film, I feel unlucky not to win any awards.