Considering I was in a cinema with about 100 people, and I was one of three men in said cinema, this movie is not just for women to enjoy.
Starring Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Timothée Chalamet, Laura Dern, Louis Garrel, and Meryl Streep, ‘Little Women’ is the newest feature film from writer/director Greta Gerwig and the latest adaptation of the classic novel of the same name.
Set during and after the Civil War, it follows Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) as she reflects and writes about the times spent with her sisters Meg (Emma Watson), Amy (Florence Pugh), and Beth (Eliza Scanlen) who brings the family together after she falls ill.
Greta Gerwig won me over with her 2017 film ‘Lady Bird,’ which is one of my favourite coming-of-age movies of all time. So, when it came to ‘Little Women,’ I was very keen to see how Gerwig could tackle an adaptation of a classic and much-loved novel. After sitting on the film for a few days, I can safely say that Gerwig is one of the most talented filmmakers working today, and I LOVE ‘Little Women’!
Firstly, as you can tell from my opening, many would think this movie only caters towards a female audience. I don’t think it does at all. Greta Gerwig has crafted an adaptation that allows any person of any gender to find equal amounts of enjoyment and emotional attachment out of it. For the majority of the film, I was sitting in my seat and watching it with a massive smile on my face. I couldn’t help but love Gerwig’s approach to this classic tale. The love and charm Gerwig put into the film ooze out of the screen over the course of its two-hour-plus runtime. It feels classic, yet it also feels very modern. From the way Gerwig writes these characters, to the structure itself and the use of colour grading to differentiate between the different periods of the story, this is some fantastic direction, and it continues to prove why Gerwig is a filmmaker who requires your attention.
With this love and care from Greta Gerwig, we feel like we are in this house and town, living with these characters. The fantastic cinematography from Yorick Le Saux transports us into this classical and warm world. The whole film looks terrific, with Le Saux allowing us to experience the warmth of the love and playfulness of the girls, to the bitter feuds caused by jealousy and fighting. As I mentioned before, the colour grading of different periods is also very clever with warm oranges and yellows used for flashbacks, to colder blues and blacks used for the later period. ‘Little Women’ looks fantastic, and the partnership between the direction and cinematography makes it beautiful to experience.
Now, it wouldn’t be ‘Little Women’ without the characters and my god the casting is perfect! Firstly I’ll talk about Saoirse Ronan as Jo, who is terrific as the film’s protagonist. Ronan brings charm, energy, and an incredibly fun personality to the character of Jo. The way Gerwig adapts the character for Ronan is also notable, as she is perfectly suited to this version of a character who has been played by different actresses in multiple adaptations. Ronan makes Jo her character, and her chemistry with everyone else, especially with Timothée Chalamet, is remarkable. Easily one of Ronan’s best performances yet!
Since I mentioned Timothée, I should talk about his performance as Laurie, and yeah, he’s excellent. Chalamet has been one of my favourite modern actors since his breakout role in ‘Call Me By Your Name,’ and he again proves why he’s an actor everyone needs to pay attention to. His charm and playfulness in the role of Laurie are fantastic, and you can’t help but love the character through this performance. His chemistry with Ronan and Florence Pugh especially is delightful to watch, and he does a great job of bringing this charmful character to life.
Speaking of Florence Pugh, she steals the show with her performance as Amy. After seeing Pugh’s incredible performance in the 2019 horror film ‘Midsommar’ (which I highly recommend), I was excited to see her take on who many consider to be the most hateable character in the story. Pugh knocks it out of the park with a complex and emotional performance as a girl in the shadow of her older sisters. She steals every scene she is in, and even though you love to hate her at times, you can see where the character’s motivations come from, leading to you feeling sorry for her at times. Pugh gives a mesmerising performance, and she’s worth the price of admission alone. Also, a monologue Pugh delivers about the role of women in that period should be used for her awards reel.
I could spend another few paragraphs talking about how amazing Emma Watson is as Meg, Laura Dern as Mary March, or even Eliza Scanlen and her heartwarming performance as Beth, but I must move on. Easily one of the best casts in years!
The score from Alexandre Desplat is also simply fabulous! The way Desplat uses the piano and stringed instruments throughout, and how it all blends together smoothly with what is happening on-screen is a sensory treat. The use of the harp especially adds another level of charm and adoration to the film. It’s a beautiful score, and it’s one of the best from 2019.
The final thing I want to mention is the production and costume design, which is the final cherry on top of this delightful treat! The costumes are on point, and I’ve already mentioned how warm and beautiful the main house is throughout the film. Both of these departments did a fantastic job, and it all just adds to this modern-day masterpiece.
Overall, ‘Little Women’ is a touching and heartfelt adaptation that feels classical and modern in the best way possible. Greta Gerwig’s love and care for the original story is shown through the love and care that oozes from the screen. From the incredible writing, wonderful performances, and a warm feeling created by the cinematography, ‘Little Women’ is a modern classic, and quite possibly the best on-screen version of the classic novel yet!