We all fear sometimes that we’ve got too much of our parents in us, that we aren’t our own person yet. In Lady Bird, the powerful, opinionated mother-daughter duo battle out their anxieties in a tender yet fierce coming-of-age tale. The film is a love letter to the little things in life, from a lover’s sweet lie to a parent’s reshuffle that shapes into an often invisible sacrifice.
Both Ronan and Metcalf are twin dazzling flames leaping at one another, each threatening to consume the other with care and often misplaced aspirations. When asked if Lady Bird is her given name, Christine emphatically replies, “I gave it to myself; it’s given to me by me.” Self-fashioning is a tool for the highschooler to make something of herself outside the eclipsing persona of her mother, a sentiment every Gen Z kid is intimately familiar with. Our harshest battles are often with our own shadows.
Kyle, played by Softboiᵀᴹ Timothee Chalamet, is Lady Bird’s rude (albeit hot because he’s practical) awakening that also tethers her. For the little while that she indulges in vaporous escapades with Kyle’s group of friends, the Sacramento that had imploded so as to begin grating on her very skin seems to expand, have room for a star-crossed romance, adventure and play-pretend. It is suddenly big enough for fantasy.
The best kind of movies are the ones that take you places. Greta Gerwig’s Sacramento of the early 2000s isn’t like the carnivalesque Woody Allen Paris or the theatrical New York of its older sister, the 90s hip kid Frances Ha. The quietude of its portrayal, unlike the heady hangover of the other two, dips its fingers into the comfort of finding old photographs curled at the edges, reminiscent of Jarmusch’s Paterson in how it endears us to the ordinariness of everyday life, the fragile humanity of it.
Sacramento as we know it is practically a beacon of change, a city now metamorphosed beyond recognition. To see it stripped down back to a time when it couldn’t quite match the pace of its young blood compels us to slow down, pause, take a seat- literally as mandates a cinematic experience but also figuratively in how much of Lady Bird, with its cacophony of arguments in the family and tiffs with the best friend and a prom much dreamed of and then abandoned for its over-familiarity, asks of us to walk with it. The current of life, though different, is not banished of its vitality anywhere.
Lady Bird, as evidently as it is embedded in gritty reality, transcends the mundane so that it manages to feel fantastical. Christine becoming, rather than just inhabiting the name that she has conferred upon herself is no less a modern fantasy than being whisked away to a hauntingly beautiful manor that whispers in your ear. Her whirlwind romance with Kyle, at least until the revelation of the precarity of virginity, is a fantasy. Overcoming the sobering grip of finances to make it to the city whose thoughts keep you up at night too is a fantasy.
The romance of escape to a megalopolis is tinted woolen grey with the nostalgia of hometown. When we find our wings, let’s not forget that they’re strengthened with the muscle of our roots, where we began, where life as we knew it began. The world, as we know, is round. Keep walking away, and you’ll eventually end up where you began, even if sometimes it doesn’t seem like it, even if home is another place.
It takes Christine getting lost in NYC to find her way back to her mother with a choked “I love you, thank you” and I hug my mom a little tighter every time I go for a visit. They say home is where the heart is. Lady Bird reminds us that there are also places where the heart will always find a home.