Greta Gerwig and Louisa May Alcott shed a warm light on the fear of growing up

Maggie OBrien

More stories from Maggie O'Brien

Across the Pond
February 28, 2024

Photo by Sony Pictures

A sincere, loving moment is shared between the March sisters and Marmee as she reads the girls a letter from their father.

Spoiler warning for the 2019 romance-drama film, “Little Women.” 

Directed by Greta Gerwig and based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott, “Little Women” tells the darling story of the four March sisters. This book-to-film adaptation is set apart from the rest with its lovely visuals and spectacular cast

In the film “Little Women,” Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) confronts the joys and unspoken toils of womanhood in the 1860s through a sweet reflection on the lives of her three sisters and herself. 

“Little Women” sways back and forth in the timeline of the four sisters’ lives, showing viewers snippets of life at the charming March home, as well as glimpses into their individual lives after leaving home. 

Marmee, the sisters’ warmhearted and altruistic mother, encourages her girls to offer help and grace to others, even when they don’t have much to offer. 

Although the March girls were raised on the same values, they each have vastly differing ideas of how their lives should be spent. 

Jo, a bright-spirited young woman is simply appalled by the idea of her sisters growing up and marrying. She laments her fiery temper but embraces her boyish nature, which charms and delights her good friend and neighbor, Laurie (Timothée Chalamet). 

She’d be content to write and direct plays with her sisters in the attic of her childhood home forever, but Laurie is keen on winning her heart. Jo can’t understand why she seems incapable of returning his love, but she rejects his hand in marriage in a moving confrontation. 

Meg (Emma Watson), the eldest sister, is quite unlike Jo in her passionate desire to marry and have the finest things. She’s responsible and poised but still takes place in the sisterly whimsy and fun that takes place at the March house. 

Jo is distraught when she learns that John (James Norton), Laurie’s tutor, plans to propose to Meg, which further solidifies the uncomfortable truth that her sisters are growing up. Much to Jo’s dismay, Meg and John marry in a pleasant wedding full of flowers and sunlit dances.

Amy (Florence Pugh), the youngest of the March sisters, is a vulnerable and sweet young girl, with a jealous, mean edge that’s brought out when provoked by her older sisters. 

Beth (Eliza Scanlen) is a gracious young woman whose shyness reminds Laurie’s grandfather (Chris Cooper) of his late daughter. She inherits his piano and attempts to send it back, feeling undeserving of the gift.

When her sisters convince her to keep the piano, Beth shows her gratitude to Laurie’s grandfather by sewing him a pair of homemade slippers. 

Undeservingly, Beth falls ill from scarlet fever, and after recovering for a brief period, requests her sisters’ presence. Beth’s illness is ultimately what brings the sisters back home after they’d left home. 

The four sisters differ considerably in their desires and opinions, but they find common ground in their unfaltering adoration for their parents. They strive to be anywhere near as generous as Marmee and love her endlessly.

Their father (Bob Odenkirk) is away fighting in the American Civil War and the March sisters shriek with joy upon receiving any correspondence from him. He eventually returns home, filling the girls with delight when their family is momentarily together at home. 

“Little Women” is an anytime watch that’s sure to delight first-time watchers with its endearing characters and brilliant cinematography. 

Although I’ve seen the film countless times, “Little Women” continues to effortlessly dazzle me with its familiar scenes and comforting characters. 

Be warned, this film is a bit of a tear-jerker (both tears of anger and happiness), a result of its heartfelt display of platonic and familial affection and plots of malady and unrequited love.

You can watch “Little Women” on Starz on Hulu with a premium subscription, or rent it on Amazon Prime Video. I would also wholeheartedly encourage you to read the novel by Louisa May Alcott.

O’Brien can be reached at [email protected].