Duration: 2h 15m
Director: Greta Gerwig
Writer: Greta Gerwig (adapted from Louisa May Alcott’s novel)
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Laura Dern, Meryl Streep
By Caz Armstrong
I have never read the book “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott or seen any of the previous adaptations. I have little interest in period dramas, frocks and debutant balls. All I knew about the film was that there were a bunch of teenage-ish girls, it was written 150 years ago and the Joey on Friends got upset about one of the characters dying.
So, I knew I’d be a hard sell on this but after a shaky start this film really won me over.
“Little Women” (2019) tells the story of the four March sisters working out what their paths in life are going to be. I thought Jo (Saoirse Ronan) was awesome. She’s not bothered about societal norms and gender roles. She wants to be free and independent and live her best life as a writer.
Amy (Florence Pugh) was my next favourite. She’s the artist in the family and clearly much better than the men around her. But as a woman would have had no future in art (or anything creative) unless they were the best genius who ever lived, her hands were tied. Meg (Emma Watson) and Beth (Eliza Scanlen) didn’t really grab me but I assume they have bigger roles in the book.
I thought Jo (Saoirse Ronan) was awesome. She’s not bothered about societal norms and gender roles. She wants to be free and independent and live her best life as a writer.
It was a little difficult to keep up with how many of them were in love with their neighbour Laurie (Timothée Chalamet) and he was in love with a few of them. Also the timeline switched rapidly between flashback and present day and there wasn’t much distinction between them. If someone were more familiar with the story they might not have found that structure or the number of people who fancied each other as much of an issue but it did make it just a tad harder to follow for me.
Director Greta Gerwig steers how we feel about the characters in such a careful and deliberate way that we don’t even notice until suddenly confronted by our own assumptions. So when the penny drops all of a sudden their seemingly selfish actions become a hundred times more human. The decisions they make become not just matters of the heart but of survival.
When the majority of media is made by men, featuring men, and made for a male audience is it any wonder that “Little Women” is held so dearly by women and girls who saw themselves in the pages.
My heart went out to Jo and her struggle to balance both independence and loneliness. In one scene these conflicting feelings come to a head and it was delivered with a raw intensity. I was internally screaming for poor Jo seeing everyone around her get what she wanted for herself, and trying to balance independence with a deep need to be loved.
I can see now why so many girls read this book growing up and why it’s so enduring. When the majority of media is made by men, featuring men, and made for a male audience is it any wonder that “Little Women” is held so dearly by women and girls who saw themselves in the pages.
Director Greta Gerwig steers how we feel about the characters in such a careful and deliberate way that we don’t even notice until suddenly confronted by our own assumptions.
It’s something I missed out on growing up but I hope that girls will see this film and be inspired by the characters.
I hope that men and boys can see it without dismissing it as “a women’s film”. It’s a universal film about finding your path in a world full of various constraints. It would be great if everyone who hasn’t read the book could watch it and be introduced to a piece of classic literature featuring complicated women. I had my issues with the structure and feeling disengaged during the first half. But by the end the characters’ inner struggles really gripped me and I was won over. Give it a chance and it might win you over too.