Over the past decade, Greta Gerwig has become one of the most vital and vibrant stars of the independent film scene. In doing so, she has established an artistic identity apart from her acting: she co-directed Nights and Weekends with Joe Swanberg, and has cultivated a strong creative and personal partnership with Noah Baumbach, co-writing two of the most attuned comedies of the decade together. So it was only a matter of time before Gerwig made a film all her own, and with Lady Bird comes something expected yet totally delightful: a work of both nostalgia and anti-nostalgia, something both fleeting and grounded, all anchored in an utterly indelible character.
That character is Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), nicknamed (by herself) Lady Bird, a young woman in her senior year of high school literally living on “the wrong side of the tracks” in Sacramento circa 2002. An underachieving yet passionate student, she wishes nothing more than to go to a college on the East Coast in a city that, unlike her perception of her hometown, has culture and heritage. Sensibly, Lady Bird is effectively split into two stories: the more dominant portion, dramatically speaking, deals with Lady Bird’s tenuous relationship with her family, including her tough, loving mother (Laurie Metcalf) and her kindly but suffering father (Tracy Letts); and the second, more lighthearted but never lightweight one portrays her life at her Catholic private school, negotiating popularity, drama, poor math grades, and the college application process.