TL;DR – I highly recommend this astounding film
Score – 5 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
It has been a long time since I have had a good cry in the cinemas, and I don’t mean a good one solitary tear gallantly making its way down the side of my face as the music soars around. No I mean some good old fashioned weeping, the kind that makes you wish you had brought a hankie or at least some tissues as you try to compose yourself after as you thank God that you were not wearing any mascara because there would be no coming back from that. Well, today we look at a film that is all that and more.
So to set the scene, we open in New York City back in 1868 where Josephine “Jo” March (Saoirse Ronan) works as a teacher in a boarding house as she tries to be published as a writer. The publisher Mr Dashwood (Tracy Letts) is interested in her work, but it needed to be more salacious and the female characters must end the book either married or dead. In France, Jo’s sister Amy (Florence Pugh) is enjoying some time painting and finding a husband under the guidance of her Aunt (Meryl Streep) when she spies Theodore “Laurie” Laurence (Timothée Chalamet) a childhood friend of her and her sisters Meg (Emma Watson) and Beth (Eliza Scanlen), as well as the former suiter of Jo, in the gardens of Paris. It is a moment of joy, but there and across the Atlantic, there is a cloud on the horizon because the past is not going to stay in the past.
There is so much this film does right that it is almost difficult to find where to start, so let’s begin with the story. Now I need to preface this with the fact that I have not read the source material, though I am sure I’ve seen the 1994 film before. So, I can’t tell you how good of an adaption it is of the original work, but what I can tell you is that what we get on the screen is a beautiful work of cinema. When you have a film that jumps back and forth between two different timeframes (1868 and 1861) it can be really easy to lose your place or for the film to spend too much of its run time making sure that the audience knows where they are. Here they take their time setting the film and its two timelines at the start, but as the film goes on and you become clearer with all the relationships the film becomes more confident about jumping back and forth knowing that you will be able to follow along.
Another strength of the film is its characters that immediately brings you into this world of plays in the attic, caring for the local poor, and the sometimes complicated love of four sisters. This is a film that so revolves around its main cast of characters that if one of them didn’t work in the context of the film it would have fallen apart. Thankfully, everyone is here to give their greatest performances and there is a reason that they have a number of acting nominations for this year’s Oscars. There is, of course, the core four March sisters played by Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, and Eliza Scanlen and wow are they amazing. There are scenes when it is just the four of them where they are so dynamic and familiar that you would completely believe that they are sisters in real life. We mostly follow Jo’s story, so it is really good that Saoirse absolutely nails the role and you feel every emotion she is having as her world changes. Add to this the warmth of Laura Dern as their mother and you have a scenario that leads to immediate joy as the film starts.
The supporting cast is not messing around either. At this point, I think Timothée Chalamet has almost been typecast as the precocious younger gentlemen, which would be a problem if he was not so good at it. Add to this the impeccable Meryl Streep, who conveys so much in just a look. Seriously, there is one moment when she gives a slightly knowing yet also concerned look that frankly if she had been nominated that look was all that was needed. This is such an amazing cast that Bob Odenkirk is in it for a moment or two and everyone is just chill even though this is Bob Odenkirk.
One of the reasons why the cast needs to work as well as they do as well as the script needs to be on point is because this is a film that needs every emotional moment to hit as hard as it can, and it does. This film not only had me in tears for large sections of its run time, but it also had my crying different types of tears. There were tears of joy and tears of sadness, tears of relief and tears of grief, tears of beauty and tears of resignation, and tears of they are dancing outside just for themselves. Indeed, there was at least one moment where I had tears rolling down my face, and then one of the more amusing moments in the film happened and I found myself laughing profusely while also crying, and I don’t think I was very dignified in that moment.
To add to all of this, the production supporting the film is all top-notch. I liked the set design and the way they used subtle changes to Concord to show the passage of time. The costumes are all beautiful and each outfit is used to help tell the story of who the characters are. This is all tied together by one of Alexandre Desplat’s best musical scores that shifts from joyful to chaotic to mournful at the tip of a hat.
In the end, do we recommend Little Women? Absolutely, of course, we do. This film from Greta Gerwig is a joyful masterpiece, it is a film that everyone can go see, no matter the age and have an engaging time that never talks down to them to accomplish it. It hits all the right emotional moments, it beautifully constructed, and it is not afraid to through a few punches here and there. Don’t miss it in cinemas. If you really enjoyed Little Women, I can recommend you Gteta’s directing debut Lady Bird another beautiful film about families and living together.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Little Women
Directed by – Greta Gerwig
Screenplay by – Greta Gerwig
Based on – Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Music by – Alexandre Desplat
Cinematography by – Yorick Le Saux
Edited by – Nick Houy
Production/Distribution Companies – Columbia Pictures, Regency Enterprises, Pascal Pictures, & Sony
Starring – Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Bob Odenkirk, Meryl Streep, Timothée Chalamet, Chris Cooper, Tracy Letts, James Norton, Louis Garrel, Jayne Houdyshell, Dash Barber, Hadley Robinson, Abby Quinn & Maryann Plunkett
Rating – Australia: G; Canada: G; Germany: 0; New Zealand: G; United Kingdom: U; United States: PG