Lady Bird – next Wednesday’s film – features superb performances

Depending through which end of the telescope you view Lady Bird (nominated for three Academy Awards), teenager Christine McPherson is either a bright young thing struggling against the suffocation of suburbia, or a brattish malcontent, oafishly ignorant of her family’s struggles.  Due in large part to superb performances from Saoirse Rowan as the eponymous teenager, and Laura Metcalf as her long suffering mum, both views are  tenable, and frequently at the same time.

While director Greta Gerwig sometimes allows her screenplay to teeter close to sentimentality, she always manages to pull back from the brink in time with remarkably assured direction for a debut feature, offering a funny yet acerbic portrait of what it’s like to be almost an adult, in a world where the proper grown-ups often behave like kids. Lady Bird takes us on a well-trodden path down the coming of age narrative, and in truth there is little of surprise on the way, but the journey is related with such quirky good humour and compassion that it is never less than engaging.

With a fine supporting cast – Tracy Letts is particularly good as the archetypical reasonable Dad – and some fine cinematography of sun drenched California from Sam Levy, this delightful confection is the perfect antidote to bloated multiplex blockbusters.

By David Vass