“Do you want to go see Lady Bird instead?” was not even a question for me. I’ve been dying to see Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut after seeing her performance in Frances Ha many years ago. I left the theater with my friend in tears and my heart dropped to the floor. Lady Bird left me reminiscing about my own teenage years and also how one single film can pin point those exact moments and feelings.
Lady Bird follows Christine (played by Saoirse Ronan, a teen in her senior year of high school who’s self-given name Lady Bird_ is well respected amongst her peers. With a bold and hardworking nurse of a Mom (played by Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird dives head first into sex, love, friendships and above all understanding of self.
Lady Bird does an excellent job of using cinematography to show the youthful angst of what it’s like to be a teen. Falling in love and out of love by giving us close up intimate views of hands holding, kissing and touching. Looking deep into the character’s eyes and then back out again to show that love is a microcosm of what we desire, and that there is a huge other world out there beyond the warm touch of hands and brushing up of elbows. The crippling realizations of discovering the truth are shown through vivid cuts of dark and light; close ups and wides.
Cinematographer Sam Levy does an excellent job collaborating with Gerwig’s script and directing by continuously driving the focus on Lady Bird. The camera acts as a sheer onlooker onto Lady Bird’s emotions. Letting us know what she’s really thinking without her saying it.
When Gerwig originally introduced the script to Levy she said "It should look and feel like a memory." Shooting on an Alexa digital camera, Levy wanted to emulate a sense of photocopying in the early 2000's. That a lot of the material used at that time were crappy reproductions that had a certain gloss or sheen to them, trying to replicate the memory. Yet, trying not to make it too dreamy or luscious, Levy and Gerwig both wanted the characters to look lively, not like looking on into the past.
The silent expressions of Ronan’s performance rip open into her questioning of her own self. Although Lady Bird seems confident with herself and unapologetic, she is still scared of who she is, who she may become and the judgements of the people around her. Her red-dyed hair and spunky outfits are only a mask to shield that she is scared shitless of what her next step is out of high school.
What may not seem as important to Lady Bird only becomes romanticized once it's gone. Creating the bitter yet oh-so-true reality that we all face: we miss home. Levy's compositions between mother and daughter play beautifully into this. With close shots, the two always are close even though the dialogue makes their relationship seem distant. Almost with mutual respect and admiration for each other, Levy partners Lady Bird and her Mom on the same level. One never staggered above the other. Their relationship is one of fights and disagreements where you have to just walk away, but filled with pure love for one another.
Lady Bird overall sincerely drives home the questioning of who one really is beneath the hair, makeup and attitude. Once stripped down to their core are they really who they say they are? Do they really reject what they say they do, and what do we really want to happen next in our lives.
You can watch the trailer below:
All images by A24