Why Everybody's Talking About LadyBird

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Why Everybody's Talking About LadyBird

SAOIRSE RONAN IS THE DEFINITION OF A PRECOCIOUS TALENT. Not in the sense of being obnoxious, as the word is often wielded, but in its actual definition: having developed certain abilities or proclivities at an earlier age than usual. At the age of 13 she was nominated for an Academy Award for her role as Supporting Actress in Joe Wright’s Atonement. By 21 she had received her second, this time Best Actress for her role in Brooklyn. 2018 sees her third nomination – Best Actress again – for her role in Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, Lady Bird. And though she’s yet to go home with a statuette, at 23 Ronan is already a veteran nominee. Gerwig however, is not, which, with its three nominations for Best Original Screenplay, Best Director and Best Picture, is what makes the rigorously written coming-ofage movie Lady Bird such a special moment this year.

Gerwig’s Best Picture nomination brings the total of women nominated for a Best Director Oscar up to a whopping five. Of course, she’s the only female director to be nominated this year. In fact, she’s the first to be nominated this decade (the last was Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker in 2008; she is the only winner so far) and the list extends backwards only to 1975. That’s one woman a decade spanning Lina Wertmüller, Jane Campion and Sofia Coppola. Looking straight at the stats, they begin to sting a little. And when one begins musing over the discrepancy between the ease with which the academy recognises women’s acting and its failure to acknowledge women leading a cast and crew, it stings a little more.

But with its deft comedic timing, its elegantly wrought characters, nimble dialogue, real moments of agonising teenage truth and a soporific Sacramento setting, this is a perfectly formed film. It fills its genre to the brim without ever pretending to be bigger than it is. Whether it is an Oscar winner or not, it is the most deserving film on that roster. Because it shouldn’t be so rare for a woman to make a simply great film – and just perhaps, this one might encourage even more.

Photo: REX