Review: Little Women

Written by Eliz Bilal.

On the 12th of December, I considered myself lucky to watch one of the very first screenings for Oscar nominee director Greta Gerwig’s (director of Lady Bird) take on Louisa May Alcott’s classic 1886 novel Little Women. Okay, the free champagne and ice-cream bar was also a plus. In the Capitol Theatre, I found myself encompassed in a sea of men, women, boys, and girls of all ages. If this is a testament to the impact the story has back when it was first published, I was in for a treat for this 21st century take that you could say is more relevant today than ever.

Set not long after the Civil War, Little Women is a coming of age story that follows the four March sisters. The eldest, Meg (Emma Watson), is gentle, loving with a strong moral compass. She’s followed by the rebellious writer Jo (Saoirse Ronan) and exquisite piano player Beth (Eliza Scanlen). The youngest is Amy (Florence Pugh), the artistic dreamer. We see their world through the eyes of Jo, the main protagonist. The audience is immediately greeted with her ambitious and offbeat personality. She is running through the crowded streets with money in her pocket as one of her stories is to be published in the paper under a different name. While their mother Marmee (Laura Dern) is busy working away until their father returns home from the aftermath of the war, the girls find themselves working odd jobs to help their family keep afloat.

The March girls depict typical behaviours of sisters, and I couldn’t help but smile at the uncanny resemblance to my relationship with my own sister: arguing one minute, then rolling on the floor in laughter the next; burning a possession that is most important to your sibling (my equivalent was blackmail by carving her name on our antique wooden table); but in the end, being there for one another in the direst of situations. This is all endeared through Laurie Laurence (Timothee Chalamet). A wave of swooning sighs could be heard from the girls behind me and, honestly, same. The wealthy boy next door befriends Jo at a party, and not long after, they share a rather joyful dance which becomes one of the movie’s iconic scenes. This kinship then brings the Laurence and March family together who help each other through thick and thin and are taken in awe by the chaos and mischief that comes with the four girls.

Gerwig does an impeccable job at swiftly switching between past and present in a way that does not leave the audience confused. Whether in a dream or a simple reminder through a possession, we are taken back through Jo’s memories, setting the scene for what is to come. This allows us to understand Jo’s nostalgia of her last reminiscence of childhood when facing the growing pains and milestones of life.

Throughout the film, there was an undeniable sense of solidarity in the room. Equal rights and feminism is an issue that is still being fought today and is reflected in the behaviours and theme of Little Women. It is heavily endorsed through Aunt March (Meryl Streep) that the girls must marry rich in order to remain stable and not to struggle like their mother. However, this belief is discarded by the girls in various ways as they learn their place in the world in finding their own agency. All in killer outfits that will be sure to be inspirations for the next autumn collection (I want your hat, Jo).  

I couldn’t help but think what a way it will be to kick off the new decade. Little Women is out in cinemas on the 1st of January 2020, and I highly recommend girls and boys go watch this film that was just as delightful as the free ice-cream. I left the cinema on an emotional roller-coaster ride that made me laugh, cry, and internally fist pump. Greta Gerwig’s vision stands strong that an empowered woman comes in many shapes and forms. From chasing a dream, wanting to raise a family, or simply captivated by the notion of falling in love, in the end, it is our choice, and that’s what makes girls ‘little women’.

Eliz’s work appears in the Taboo, Ethereal, and Contact editions of WORDLY Magazine.

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