It’s Christmas time which means that, apart from the impending
arrival of dear Saint Nick and his reindeer, the film world starts to gear up for the annual awards hootenanny that is looming large on the horizon. This year may present us with one of the most open races in many years with countless hopefuls vying for their place at the prestigious awards shows on the way to Oscar triumph. Right now, it’s so hard to choose given not just the array of the usual bait but also the Avengers crew and some other late arrivals peeking their eyes around the corner. Now add to the mix the eagerly-anticipated arrival of Greta Gerwig‘s sophomore effort, an adaptation of Louisa May Alcott‘s classic novel Little Women – but with all the usually Gerwig-isms added for good measure.
With the array of adaptations the book has had over the decades – even as recently as 2017 AND 2018 – another could have been received like many comic-book reboots: not enough time has past from the previous one to get truly excited?; Why should audiences care about yet another version when so many original films are struggling to even get before the camera? Worry ye not fare reader, as while this is a faithful retelling in many ways, this has Gerwig written all over it.
The main creative choice is to switch to a non-linear narrative structure which begins with a few jars but eventually finds its feet to such a perfect pitch that you’ll think it was always part of the text such is its brilliance. Some of the editing choices don’t always work, mind you and some of the mid section sags just a smidge, but Gerwig’s confidence as a writer and director are sky high here after the success of Lady Bird two years earlier and you can feel both her love of the text and her own synchronicities of warmth, humour, sarcasm and human touches coursing through every moment of its sunny glow.
It rubs off, too, on her stellar cast who all perform to the height of their powers. Ronan, as she has many times before, showcases her strength and formidable power as the independent Jo, whilst Eliza Scanlen, Timothee Chalamet and Laura Dern continue to shine through their recent purple patches as Beth, Laurie and Marmee respectively.
It’s Florence Pugh, however, who will take all the plaudits here for her magnificent, warm, impetuous, whirlwind turn as Amy and steals the film from all before her. Those who don’t know her should start familiarising themselves with her spellbinding talents, whilst those of us who have seen her blossom since 2014’s The Falling saw this coming but perhaps not to such a blistering degree.
In a ridiculously busy period for cinemas and cinema-goers with films opening left and right through the festive season, it’s almost impossible to keep up but trust us when we say that Little Women should be top of your list, even above trips to a galaxy far, far away and down a dark alley with singing human-cat hybrids (the latter we can’t recommend more strongly that you don’t attempt it). This, however, is a dream of a film that deserves many repeat viewings for its lushness, it’s lightness, it’s emotional core and it’s superlative cast and director. Marvellous stuff.
Period, Drama | USA,2019 | 26 December 2019 (UK) | Sony Pictures Releasing |Dir.Greta Gerwig | Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Timothee Chalamet, Meryl Streep, Tracy Letts,