Have you watched Lady Bird yet? Greta Gerwig's directorial debut is in line for several Oscars this coming Sunday and has generated warm responses from audiences and critics. With the movie now on expanded release in Cineworld, we've rounded up five reasons why you must see it.
1. Greta Gerwig
She's been an indie stalwart for years, having lit up the screen in the likes of Noah Baumbach's Frances Ha. And it's delightful to note how much of Gerwig's sunny, irrepressible personality has translated to her role behind the camera.
Fans of Gerwig's slightly askance humour (just look at her aforementioned, apartment-hopping Frances Ha character for that) will find much to enjoy in Lady Bird. The humour very often plays out in static, unfussy takes, lending a deadpan air of comedy to the title character's (Saoirse Ronan) quest for teenage independence.
For instance, there's a wonderful scene where Lady Bird candidly admits she wouldn't get in to her desired university, Yale. This leads to a mirthful response from her teacher that's bound to strike a nerve with all of us who were at one point racked with adolescent self-doubt. Gerwig's sense of warmth and humour is more than evident in this sequence, and indeed throughout the film.
2. Saoirse Ronan
The movie's impact would be seriously lessened without the grounding presence of Ronan. Further demonstrating that she cannot put a foot wrong, Ronan digs into yet another complex yet utterly believable character - regardless of your background or gender, Lady Bird's neuroses will strike a universal note for anyone who's ever been a teenager.
Ronan adds to a string of acclaimed performances, beginning with Atonement and running up to the likes of Brooklyn, with another consummate portrayal. It would be all too easy to roll out the exaggerated body language and vocal mannerisms to suggest teen rebellion. But Ronan is interested in building a contradictory, empathetic portrayal that serves as the heart of the movie.
3. The supporting performances
Key to the success of Ronan's performance is that of Laurie Metcalf, here playing Lady Bird's no-nonsense mother, Marion. Best known as the voice of Andy's mother in the Toy Story series, Metcalf is also a veteran theatre performer, and generates an instinctive, spiky chemistry with her co-star that is sure to evoke many memores of mother-daughter conflicts.
And the superb performances don't stop there. Quietly establishing himself in the background is playwright/actor Tracy Letts as Lady Bird's long-suffering father, Larry, a man who has learned to step out of the way of all incoming conflicts. There's also Manchester by the Sea's Lucas Hedges as Lady Bird's sexually confused first boyfriend Danny, and Call Me By Your Name's Timothee Chalamet as his self-serving, guitar-playing successor.
It's a terrifically exciting cast of established veterans and rising stars. Even so, a special shoutout goes to the scene-stealing Beanie Feldstein as Lady Bird's ally Julie, one of the best BFF characters in any film for a long while.
4. The screenplay
Lady Bird is, at its heart, the story of a warring yet deeply loving mother-daughter duo, and Gerwig is compassionate enough never to take sides. Instead, she observes the capacity for love and anger on both sides. The eponymous Lady Bird is immediately recognisable in all her angsty, hormonal glory, attempting to navigate first love, university and the nebulous soundtrack landscape of 2002.
Her mother on the other hand is a strong-willed and tough yet sympathetic presence. Attempting to hold her family together though her nursing job, her approach may be suspect but her motivations towards her daughter are never in doubt.
Likewise, it would be easy for Gerwig to have set up Chalamet's character as the atypical, douchebag boyfriend. Instead, she observes him as just another young person messily stumbling their way through life.
It is, in short, one of the most relatable movies of this year's Oscar season, exhibiting a winning generosity of spirit towards all of its characters.
Plus, early noughties kids are sure to get a massive kick out of a film set in the early days of flip phones, the Dave Matthews Band and Justin Timberlake. Remember that time when social media didn't run your life? Lady Bird plugs us right back into that.
5. The Oscars
The 90th Academy Awards get underway this Sunday, and Lady Bird is one of the frontrunners. It's been nominated for five Oscars, including the coveted Best Picture, plus Best Original Screenplay and Best Director. The latter is historic: Gerwig has become the first woman in the history of the Academy to be nominated for their directorial debut. It's a sign of how much Lady Bird speaks to the moment, tackling sensitive issues of gender and identity with an even keel.
Ronan and Metcalf have also been recognised for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, an indication of how powerful their performances are, and further reinforcing how much Lady Bird demands to be seen on the big screen.