• Abigail Hall

Oscar-nominated film review: 'Lady Bird'

Originally published at OU Daily Feb. 25, 2018

"Lady Bird" is a brilliant echo into the intricate, mystifying, impermeable relationship between mothers and daughters as they navigate the adjustment from adolescence into adulthood.

Christine, self-named “Lady Bird,” is a 17-year-old high school senior in Sacramento, California, a place she makes known she wants to get far away from.

The opening scene introduces us to Lady Bird and her mother, Marion, driving home while listening to an audio book. They are silent, harmoniously enjoying one another’s company, until the moment is broken. It happens over something small, a trivial argument about an unimportant detail, which causes Marion to use an annoyed tone of voice and Lady Bird to respond with sass. Moments later, they are in a full-out argument about college and Lady Bird’s intelligence.

It’s a moment all daughters and mothers can attest to: a nagging annoyance turned into actual anger. The scene ends with Lady Bird opening the car door and thrusting herself out onto the road at full speed. Marion screams, and the film has begun.

This film is composed of fragmented images: Lady Bird laughing with her friends, turning 18 and buying her first cigarettes. It is comprised of moments more than an overarching plot. The audience voyages through Lady Bird’s journey of falling in love, experiencing heartbreak, chasing popularity and arguing with her mother all along the way.

Director Greta Gerwig depicts not only a relatable tale but also one that is exhilarating to watch. Lady Bird is not a character: Lady Bird is a self-portrait, Lady Bird is me, Lady Bird is every daughter of every mother.

“Adolescence is when kids are pulling away from their parents and establish their own independence, and that can be hard for parents,” said Trina Hope, OU associate professor of sociology.

This need for independence during adolescence is actively portrayed through Lady Bird and Marion’s relationship.

According to Hope, mothers tend to do most of the heavy lifting of raising children in early childhood years, which continues as they grow up. This can result in mothers being perceived as the “bad cop” or the difficult parent. Despite this, Hope said, she has found in her studies that, on average, the mother-daughter bond is the strongest, followed by mother-son and father-son.

Lady Bird and Marion argue. They argue about everything, they argue about nothing — and the more they do, the more Lady Bird pulls away. She says time and again that she wants to leave and never see Marion again.

Yet when Lady Bird experiences true heartbreak, she cries into Marion’s shoulder. When she goes to her prom, Marion takes pictures of her, a smile plastered on her face. When Lady Bird decides to go to college in New York, Marion stoically refuses to talk to her, but then she cries in the arms of her husband when she has left.

And when Lady Bird is far away at college, the place in which she dreamed of being, she stands in front of a church calling her mother, telling her that she misses her without actually saying the words.

"Lady Bird" is about the words we don’t say, the words we’re scared to say, the words we don’t know how to say. It is about the actual experience of loving someone who hurts you, hurting someone you love and fighting to get back to them, even if it’s just one phone call at a time.

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