Greta Gerwig depicts the soft and beautiful pains of girlhood in “Lady Bird”

Maggie OBrien

More stories from Maggie O'Brien

Across the Pond
February 28, 2024

a movie poster displaying the beautifully flawed lead, Lady Bird

Spoiler warning for the 2017 comedy-drama film, “Lady Bird”.

Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) and her hot-and-cold mother, Marion McPherson (Laurie Metcalf) are driving home to sunny Sacramento from a college visit when they fumble into a frenzied argument about attending school out of state. 

Lady Bird endures a mere moment of her mother’s yelled arguments before she opens the car door and throws her body out of the moving vehicle to escape her mother. 

This results in a broken arm for Lady Bird, which is wrapped up and encased in a pink cast. The pink plaster is lovingly embellished with black sharpie, displaying the words “f— you mom.”

With a stunningly raw opening scene, it’s clear from the very start that “Lady Bird” is quite unlike many films of its time, which is evident in the unusual nature of its protagonist.

Lady Bird,” written and directed by Greta Gerwig, is a warm, honest coming-of-age comedy-drama film set in the year 2002. This 2017 film follows an artistically inclined lead who longs to be in the heart of adventure and culture. 

From her insistence on being called “Lady Bird” to her many bad decisions and late realizations of her wrongdoings throughout the film, Lady Bird is a painstakingly real, flawed character. 

Despite this, it’s really hard not to love her. Lady Bird shares the same struggles as many older teen girls and oftentimes makes the wrong choices in situations where she’s torn, but her sardonically loving disposition always manages to shine through her mistakes in the end. 

“Lady Bird” also sheds a beautifully saddening light on the withering of a relationship that can occur between a mother and daughter as a daughter matures and becomes an individual.

This tension is especially prevalent in “Lady Bird,” as both Lady Bird and her mother are extremely strong-willed. Lady Bird’s mother is prone to making passive-aggressive comments, which leads to countless tiffs throughout the film. 

Lady Bird’s strained relationship with her mother is further exacerbated by her family’s money struggles, which stand in the way of Lady Bird’s intense desire to attend college in New York, which, as deemed by Lady Bird, is where the culture is. 

Lady Bird’s father, Larry McPherson (Tracy Letts), is a harbor from her struggles with her mother throughout the story. He helps her with the financial aid forms and questions so she can apply to New York University.

After being waitlisted, Lady Bird receives another letter that she had been admitted to NYU and rejoices.

Lady Bird and her father keep the whole admissions process a secret until her mom finds out when she graduates High School. This spilled secret casts an even darker shadow over their taut relationship.

After refinancing the house, receiving financial aid and gathering all of Lady Bird’s savings, her family is able to scrape enough money together for tuition. Lady Bird drives with her mother and father to the airport to fly from Sacramento to New York City.

Upon arriving at the airport, an emotional climax of the film is reached as Lady Bird’s mother refuses to get out of the car and say a proper goodbye.

Almost immediately upon driving away, Lady Bird’s weeping mother realizes her mistake and turns around. By the time she enters the airport, her husband greets her and Lady Bird is gone, but an understanding has been reached nonetheless. 

Lady Bird is oftentimes not an exceedingly likable character throughout the film, but that’s not the point of “Lady Bird.” This tastefully honest depiction of self-realization and conflict shows that being flawed is inevitable, and young women are allowed to make mistakes too.

Personally, I’d rate this movie a 9.5/10 for being timelessly relatable and casting one of my most loved film duos, Saoirse Ronan and Timothee Chalamet. It’s a sweet, easy, anytime watch with complicated, loveable characters and a tear-jerking end scene. 

You can watch “Lady Bird” with a Showtime or Paramount Plus subscription or rent it on Amazon Prime. 

O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]