Lady Bird (2017)

Saoirse Ronan is predictably fantastic in “Lady Bird”. The film rarely goes for the easy joke or dramatic moment (its treatment of Catholic schooling is surprisingly even-handed), and breezes along underplaying most of the drama other films of its type would make a big show of. This works really well, and makes the film feel more true-to-life than sentimental. Scene transitions happen with little rhyme or reason, and it feels like the lazy, dreamlike progression of an actual teenage life.

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What’s more mixed is the mother-daughter relationship the film centres around. A lot of it works because it feels vaguely detached and not presumptuous, one of the film’s greatest strengths. The emotional abuse is portrayed realistically, but there comes a point where it starts to feel almost normalising, and when beats of the ending reductively reframe the relationship as less complicated and more sympathetic than the film had been hinging on earlier, it leaves a sour taste in the mouth. Playing the ending as some epiphany of warmth and maternal understanding felt misjudged to me and made me rethink how I’d appreciated what I assumed was the film depicting a relationship more detachedly, open to interpretation. Nothing bad can be said about the excellent performances in the film, and its overall tone works very well, but I feel it sabotaged itself a bit at the ending by going for the easy note. Three magazines and a cigarette.

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