Sunday, January 12, 2020

Little Women – Saoirse Ronan stars in Greta Gerwig’s superb adaptation, a real tonic for the new year

Why couldn’t Little Women be three and a half hours long and The Irishman cut to half of its flabby run time? Greta Gerwig’s new adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s book is a magical cinematic experience for the start of 2020.

The March family are strong of spirit, poor in pocket, with riches stored in their hearts. Young Beth (Eliza Scanlen) is the most like her sacrificially giving mother (Laura Dern), while Amy (Florence Pugh) is headstrong and artistic, Meg (Emma Watson) has talent that she suppresses in favour of making a family, while the eldest Jo (Saoirse Ronan) cuts a lonely path as she asserts her independence to the point of lost ambitions.

The sisterly performances are all strong, but Ronan’s sometimes sullen yet eventually caring attitude as Jo is enchanting and deservedly owns the central strand of the story. Meryl Streep’s formidable Aunt March doles out harsh life lessons and makes decisions that upset and surprise. Timothée Chalamet plays a rather dashing boy-next-door love interest who melts more than one March girl heart.

There’s a discussion about whether marriage is transactional from different gender perspectives and yet again this year I seem to be faced with a story that examines the prospect of women being seen as the property of men. In the midst of this, Jo is able to garner an income writing fiction and even secures her copyright, helping support her family through some of the struggles that they face.

There’s a lot of timeline hopping with flashbacks galore, yet it weaves together into a rich picture rather than a confusing melange. The collision of desire between Jo and younger Amy is just one drama that keeps the second half of the 135-minute film flowing.

In a decade that is beginning with harsh and selfish government policies that don’t do much to build community or look out for the disadvantaged, Little Women is a tonic that reminds us that everyone can choose to pull their weight.

The film doesn’t specifically feel like a female led movie written and directed by a woman. It doesn’t feel like an adaptation of a book that is 160 years old. It is all of those things. But more than that, it’s the well-crafted plot devices, great performances and talent in front and behind the screen that create such a successful film. Little Women deserves to win lots of awards, but more importantly, it deserves to be seen by big audiences.

Little Women is still being screened in the Queen’s Film Theatre, Movie House Cinemas, Omniplex Cinemas, Odyssey Cinema, The Strand Arts Centre, and beyond!

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