Lady Bird may seem like it is your run of the mill teenage movie about high school, but it is much more than that. The film is centered around Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, who is a teenage girl with such a charismatic and hilarious personality that you want to learn more about her from the second the film begins.
Some stereotypical topics of coming of age movies are delved into in the film, like sex and drugs, but the film truly shines in its portrayal of the mother-daughter dynamic. A common issue that I’ve seen in coming of age movies is that the parents in the film are very obviously the “bad guy.” There are more flaws shown in the parent than in the child, so it ends up being natural for the audience to root for the child when they rebel. In Lady Bird that is not the case because the audience is able to see the multiple flaws that both Lady Bird and her mother possess, and how their differences in character cause them to clash.
Lady Bird and her mother get stuck in a cycle of Lady Bird wanting her mother to put more faith in her and her mother wanting to be shown some gratitude for the amount of support she has already given to her daughter. Both characters are stubborn and prideful, and it prevents them from making any progress in understanding one another better.
Lady Bird has big dreams of going to a university on the East Coast and being able to immerse herself in a culture she sees as more interesting, but her mother views her longing for adventure as a slap in the face. She does not understand why the life she has built for Lady Bird and the rest of their family is unsatisfactory, but instead of tackling the issue head-on, she makes passive aggressive comments towards her daughter. Lady Bird, in turn, gets frustrated because she feels like her mother thinks she is incapable of amounting to anything and that her best bet is to stay in the security of her own home. Their refusal to communicate only increases their annoyance with one another until their emotions are bursting at the seams.
At certain points in the film it seems like Lady Bird and her mother have resolved their past conflicts and that they were able to enjoy each other’s company once again, but then one of them would find something to pick on about the other person and then all of their past fights would come flooding out again. Many parents and children feel like the arguments they have with one another happen out of the blue, and the unpredictability of the fights between Lady Bird and her mother makes their relationship seem all the more authentic.
Greta Gerwig, the director of Lady Bird, did a phenomenal job of accurately displaying this kind of relationship between a mother and a daughter. She made me laugh and cry with the conversations between Lady Bird and her mother, and I believe that Gerwig deserves the Academy Award for Best Director. She was able to make a film that seemed like it would be a light-hearted high school film into an emotional experience that makes you reflect on the relationship you have with your own parents.