Gerwig jumps unafraid into the retelling of a classic, one that has graced the big
screen many a time, and grabs it with all her might from the first minute. Like her
heroine, Jo March, Gerwig had a wall of scepticism built for her to break through
before she’d even begun filming. Many were doubtful that there could be new life to
a story that is over 150 years old. How wrong they were.
There’s much to unpack in this 135-minute retelling of Little Women. “It’s about
women and art and money” were the words that piqued producer, Amy Pascal’s,
interest when Gerwig initially pitched herself to write and direct the film. Sony agreed
to let her write it, but it wasn’t until her success with Lady Bird that she signed on to
direct. The theme of autonomy and what it means for women who want to make art
in a man’s world sadly remain relevant no matter which century it is.
There’s something to be said for the age-old phrase “good things come to those who
wait”. Not a single frame of Greta Gerwig’s Little Women feels uninspired. From the
Winslow Homer and Julia Margaret Cameron references right down to Jo’s Amelia
Earhart haircut, Gerwig has gone above and beyond to breathe new life into her
source material. The labour of love is alive in each composition which feels like a
painting you could lift and hang in a gallery.
Saorise Ronan captures the essence of Jo March exquisitely, bursting with energy,
twitching as she writes, using every limb to inhabit the beloved heroine. Ronan plays
beautifully alongside the film’s antagonist of time, which gives it a quality of
melancholy from the moment it begins. Everything moves at the speed of light, just
like Jo’s mind. She cannot hold onto childhood, and the audience cannot hold onto a
single moment for it comes as quickly as it goes. It’s cinematic magic at its finest.
The lyricism of Gerwig’s script aids this tremendously, leaving each scene feeling
like a symphony woven through Alexandre Desplat’s melodic score.
The sisters, though historically well known, feel all at once like strangers, and
simultaneously the most familiar of family members. They tumble over each other,
can barely keep up with what they’re saying and pursue their artistic endeavours with
all the conviction in the world. For anyone who grew up with a sister, or any siblings
at all, this frenetic energy is not unfamiliar. Couple this with the warm colour palette,
it’s hard not to relish every second spent wrapped up inside the minds of the March
With a substantial acting career under Greta Gerwig’s belt, it is unsurprising
that Little Women’s performances are a force of their own. Uniting all-star actors
like Laura Dern and Meryl Streep, with the most exciting names in cinema right now,
Florence Pugh and Timothée Chalamet, Gerwig has found a gift in her cast. Each of
them seize their characters for all they’re worth (the good and the bad) and dive
deep into each esoteric nuance. It’s thrilling to watch them work through scenes with
one another in Gerwig’s deliciously textured wonderland of Concord, Massachusetts.
Jess Gonchor (Production Designer), Yorick Le Saux (Director of Photography) and
Jacqueline Durran (Costume Designer) all play their part in its sublime execution.
With lines such as “I can’t afford to starve on praise alone” and “I want to be great or
nothing,” Gerwig confidently brings Little Women to a new generation. The
discouraging gaps where female filmmakers should be thriving this awards cycle
makes the story of Meg, Amy, Beth and Jo immediate. It is a discussion Louisa May
Alcott pioneered, and it’s one Greta Gerwig, and female filmmakers for years to
come will continue.
We still have a long way to march before we reach authentic equality.