If you’ve spent any time in a movie theater or on streaming services within the past few years, you’ll probably recognize the name A24. The impact of this entertainment company is incredibly far-reaching, telling all kinds of stories with a trademark artistic style that bends to emphasize the inherent uniqueness of each. A24 has headed dozens of critically-acclaimed films throughout the years, exemplified by the award-winning excellence of Moonlight, Bo Burnham’s anxiously awkward Eighth Grade, and the haunting Hereditary. But it can be argued that A24’s best film might just be Lady Bird, directed by Greta Gerwig.
Earning the highest number of successive Fresh reviews (164) on Rotten Tomatoes when it was released in 2017, Lady Bird quickly shattered the record previously held by Toy Story 2 in 1999. It also was up for five Academy Award nominations and three BAFTAs, going on to win two Golden Globes. Breathing new life into a relatable setup, Lady Bird succeeds with all kinds of audiences because of the familiar feelings it stirs up in its viewers. Wherever you may come from and whatever direction your own life has gone in, it’s more likely than not that this film will tug on your heartstrings with some heavily understandable aspect. The story capitalizes on its relatable nature, whether or not you grew up in San Francisco, went to an all-girls Catholic high school, or have a complicated relationship with your mom. Here’s why Lady Bird could be considered to be the best A24 film.
To quote her best friend Julie, the character of Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson is one of Saoirse Ronan’s most influential performances simply because “it was the titular role!” Her earnest portrayal seemed to speak for everyone who has once been in Lady Bird’s shoes, struggling to find herself in a world where she marches to the beat of her own drum. Lady Bird is a character all her own, and her dogged individuality may strike a chord with viewers of all varieties. Her room explodes with self-expression, her school uniform adherence is questionable, and the arm cast she got after opening her mom’s car door during an argument is almost as bright pink as her hair.
Of course, a creative mind like hers is bound to hit a few extra snags while going through growing pains, worsened by the reliable monotony of everyday life. She works a couple part-time jobs that seem to crush her free spirit. She’s suspended from Immaculate Heart after an insubordinate interjection during a pro-life speaker’s presentation. She’s wait listed by her dream university. As the story progresses, we see her ditch Julie for the more popular Jenna, which comes back to bite Lady Bird after she lies about where her family really lives to seem richer. But later, she and Julie come back together at prom, hugging one another as the night goes on. Taking several instances that many teens come to terms with during their journey to adulthood is one major factor of Lady Bird‘s enduring popularity.
Just as Lady Bird’s hair color begins to fade from a vibrantly dyed magenta into her natural brunette shade, the imperfections of her senior year seem to fall short of her high expectations for it. She dreams of being able to go to college “where culture is” (far away from California), but realizes that her family’s finances can’t send her there without outside assistance. She finds out that her father’s happy-go-lucky facade masks his clinical depression and his recent job loss, sending the McPhersons further into monetary struggle.
Besides her family’s complications, Lady Bird’s love life also takes a tumble, as it always does when we’re in our teens. Lady Bird and Danny (Lucas Hedges) make it out of the friend zone of Immaculate Heart and Xavier’s joint theater program. They soon fall out of infatuation when she finds him kissing a boy, and he comes to her later at her coffee shop job to discuss his true sexuality. There, she also strikes up a conversation with Timothée Chalamet’s Kyle. This leads to a situationship with heavy chemistry that’s eventually complicated by Kyle’s admission of already being “deflowered” after Lady Bird loses her virginity to him. Even after she graduates from high school and arrives in New York City for college, she learns that her newfound freedom isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, landing her briefly in the hospital after a night of binge-drinking. Whether she’s ready or not, her rose-colored glasses are ripped off as she’s forced to come to terms with the realities of life – a feeling that almost every audience member will know too well.
Finally, Lady Bird creates an air of familiarity recognized by anyone out there with complicated familial ties. Capturing the ins and outs of the ever-evolving connections within the immediate family unit, Lady Bird’s relationship with her mom, Marion, often takes precedence over many of the smaller crises that the film raises. An article from The Cut said, “[Lady Bird is] the rare film that fully acknowledges the complexity of mother-daughter love, as well as how a parent’s best intentions for her child can be obscured or muddled by poor communication or personal hangups.”
As a reliable undercurrent of the movie, and ultimately its most valuable lesson, the bond between Lady Bird and Marion refines with time, as all good things do. From screaming at one another in the car to sending heartfelt letters with love across the country, their relationship transforms from sigh-inducing parental overreach into a constant keepsake that Lady Bird cherishes and is genuinely grateful for. Given that the film’s final line is her sincere “thank you” to her parents’ answering machine, audiences are given the opportunity to reflect on their front-row seats to her growth as a person, and their closeness with their own family members as well. This film showcases how nuanced these close-knit connections can be until they are truly put to the test, and that no amount of distance or past pain can squash them.