Little Women – Review

Release date – 26th December, Cert – U, Run-time – 2 hours 15 minutes, Director – Greta Gerwig

The March sisters (Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh and Eliza Scanlen) lives are shown through flashbacks as they come to the bed of their seriously ill sister.

Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel Little Women is undoubtedly one of the most iconic works of literature of all time. It tells to story of the March sisters as they make their way through their lives, with their own ambitions, hopes and dream and independent thoughts that they want to go out and achieve. In fact, the ideas presented in both the film and the novel may be best put by Saoirse Ronan’s central figure Jo. As it seems her world has come crashing down around her Beth passionately exclaims “Women have got ambition, they’ve got talent, as well as just beauty. I’m so sick of hearing people say that love is all that a woman is fit for. I’m so sick of it!” So, how do you bring a novel like this to the big screen with success, especially in today’s society. First of all you allow Greta Gerwig to write and direct the film, giving her full control of her vision. Gerwig’s directorial debut Lady Bird was praised by critics and audiences alike.

And that’s precisely what Gerwig does here, forming a comfortable, enjoyable and heartfelt tale. Detailed in both story and look to the point where it’s virtually impossible to not be almost instantly immersed within the world that the cast and crew all unite to create. This is a story about unity after all, but more importantly independence. While the March sisters very much support each other and want to see their family succeed they each have their own individual aims that they are determined to achieve. Jo wants to be a writer, selling short stories, although heavily edited by the publishing company, for small fees. She’s constantly told to make sure that her lead female characters are married by the end, keep it saucy and worry less about large chunks of detail and description. Meg (Emma Watson), while being shown as a strong actress has aims of getting married and starting a family. Amy (Florence Pugh) wishes to be an artist, travelling with her aunt (Meryl Streep) to Europe to develop her skills. All while youngest sister Beth (Eliza Scanlen) wants to play the piano, despite a rapidly growing illness that leaves her restricted to her bed. The hopes of each girl going against the wishes of their Aunt who tells them that they must marry well if they are to succeed in life. When it’s pointed out that she never married she quickly responds “well, that’s because I’m rich” in a way that only Meryl Streep can. It’s this kind of natural, quick humour that helps to make the world more vivid and believable. Slightly poking fun at the ideas of what women were meant to be in 19th Century America, compared with views today.

However, humour also comes from the defiance of convention that the March sisters represent. Timothée Chalamet very much plays the central love interest for Jo – the most defiant of the group, at one point she has to be told by Meg that “just because my dreams are different to yours doesn’t mean that they’re unimportant” – and a large part of the film. The son of rich neighbour Mr Laurence (Chris Cooper – sporting some absolutely smashing facial hair), who grows to form a close bond with Jo, who claims she will never marry. When Chalamet’s Laurie offers his arm to her after a trip to the theatre she hits him and quickly walks off to walk with her sister.

This is a film that’s overflowing with passion and heart from all involved. Each performance is spectacular and enhances the already detailed nature of the characters. Characters who are easy to connect with, enjoyable and you can’t help wanting to spend more time in their company. These are complex, well-designed figures that show proper varied emotions and thoughts. Translating to that being felt by the viewer. As the sister’s crowd around their increasingly ill family member the audience feels their pain, the cocktail of emotions that run through their minds over the course of the piece. Everything simply clicks and works and it all comes down to Gerwig’s screenplay. No matter where the narrative we are whether in the present day, for the characters at least, or as part of a flashback the viewer always knows who is who, what they’re like, when in time the film is showing and what has happened before that point. It all works and wonderfully flows, never loosing track of itself or becoming tangled up within its own plot, or where it is in it at different points in time. It all flows and happens with great ease, knowing exactly what to do and how to do it. Covered with the fingerprints of a cast and crew who care deeply about the project and making a strong and equally passionate feature. Having fun making it while also treating it with the seriousness that it requires and deserves. And that’s exactly what it’s like to watch the film.

Despite the pressures that the family have put upon them; including Laura Dern’s wonderfully calm, caring, yet equally restricted mother (alternatively known as Marmee) to the girls, the family still pushes through. Receiving great admiration from the audience who wants nothing but to see them succeed. Getting behind them and hoping that everything will turn out alright for them in the end, despite fears that they might be knocked back by the standards that society sets on them. And amongst all the period detail, the lavish costumes, sets and general look of the piece Gerwig manages to make this very much a film for a modern audience. A modern audience that covers a wide range of people. Not just the white middle-class women that the film looks upon. This is something for people of all ages (well, most ages, maybe not quite the very young), people of all genders, backgrounds, classes, this is a film that almost anyone can find delight in. It’s a pure joy that you can easily escape into and be entertained by. Taken on a journey with these wonderful, caring, heartfelt, heartwarming, emotional, complex and genuine characters. A step-up from Lady Bird, although a rather different film in certain aspects; although carrying on a number of the core themes and ideas, Greta Gerwig confirms that she is on track to dominate Hollywood and hopefully continue to change its landscape for the better!

Passionate, thoughtful, caring and much more more Little Women has a lot to say and it does it in a wonderfully eloquent and heartfelt way. Gerwig’s screenplay and direction and precise, finely sculpted and with strong performances from the cast and crew this is an altogether enjoyable, entertaining and energetic piece. Translating all of this into emotion, humour, character and story. A wonderful, effective mixture.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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