“Lady Bird:” The Coming-of-Age Story that Soars


“Lady Bird” stars Saoirse Ronan as the title character. (COURTESY OF LINDSAY MACIK)


A story is never captivating unless it resonates in your core. The feeling usually begins as a slight tickle of joy, causing you to settle further into your seat comfortably. Then, as the film progresses, you find yourself glued to the screen, that tickle growing into a rapid-fire of emotions as you walk in the steps of a character. Eventually, your feelings hit you like a train, and you don’t quite remember how they grew so strongly in the first place.

This is the sensation that occurs when watching the movie “Lady Bird,” written and directed by Greta Gerwig. The film is a classic coming-of-age story about a senior in high school, Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, played by Saoirse Ronan (“Brooklyn”) as she attempts to navigate what is often the most difficult year for a teenager. But what could have easily turned into a basic high school cliché story ended up being so much more— it is an emotionally potent tale of family, love and self discovery.

And where does the nickname “Lady Bird” originate from? Well, she gave it to herself. Lady Bird is passionate. She is a unique and charming character in that she knows exactly what she wants for herself, even at such a young age. She will go to lengths to make a point she is passionate about. She despises her hometown of Sacramento. She loves spending time with her best friend Julie, often sneaking communion wafers in the back room of their Catholic school’s chapel. She auditions for the school musical in a costume she made just for the occasion, and will even throw herself out of a moving vehicle just to prove her point.

Ronan herself imbues Lady Bird with the wit that she deserves. Pair her talent with Gerwig’s gift for writing a script, and the end product is a character that instantly resonates with anyone—whose sharp sense of humor, compassion and curiosity towards the world are quick to make an impression that lasts way longer than the movie’s runtime.

However, Lady Bird would be nothing without her mother (played by an excellent Laurie Metcalf), whose relationship together easily defines the film. The two are instantly relatable, their dynamic together full of the ebbs and flows typical of a mother and daughter. Metcalf delivers an emotionally potent performance, her character stern but always with her daughter’s best intention in mind. You could see the care behind her eyes even in the tensest of scenes, and Lady Bird sums up their chemistry perfectly, defending her by saying “Yeah? Well, she loves me a lot.”

“I want to live through something,” Lady Bird mutters to her mother as they listen (and sob) to an audio recording of “Grapes of Wrath.” What Lady Bird looks for is a revelation moment, where she will one day experience some type of adventure worth waiting for. But what she is quick to learn is that life itself is an adventure. It is the simple things—searching for romance, goofing off with your best friend, arguing and making up with your mother—that define Lady Bird’s life and make it worthwhile. She looks for a dramatic journey of self-discovery, but the answers lie within herself and the people and places that are right in front of her.

But, it is the dispersion of this type of wisdom in between bits of comedy that makes the movie so wonderful.  Lady Bird is a tale of life itself through the eyes of a teenage girl. It tells the seemingly simple story of her senior year; however, Gerwig imbues the film with raw and powerful emotion, the type that we all encounter while living. There can be pure joy at one moment and heart wrenching sadness the next. It can be full of confusion and complication, often seeming like the trials will never end, but it all eventually works out. “Lady Bird” is a film that encapsulates all there is to life, and its story will touch you to the core because of it.