This is the sixth on-screen adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel, the most recent having been the 1994 academy award-nominated film starring Winona Ryder. However, unlike previous adaptations, Greta Gerwig’s Little Women sings with the vibrant air of modernism. Here Gerwig takes the roots of the classic novel and honours its structure while gently bringing the characters to life with a modern attitude and verve. The result is a gloriously rich piece of period drama that manages to speak to today as much as it does 1868 America.
Gerwig cleverly plays with the book’s timeline, introducing us to Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) as she stands outside the door of a New York publisher, nervously looking to expand her writing career through short stories in a local paper. Meanwhile, her sister Amy (Florence Pugh) is travelling through Europe with the stern Aunt March (Meryl Streep), while Meg (Emma Watson) attempts to settle into a loving but financially strained marriage to John Brooke (James Norton). At home, the delicate and caring Beth (Eliza Scanlen) remains with the girl’s mother, Laura Dern. Then we have Laurie (Timothée Chalamet), travelling Europe in a lonely haze of alcohol and parties after Jo’s rejection.
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Using a series of flashbacks that dovetail neatly with the present day, Gerwig explores each of the sisters’ lives. Here family dynamics, sisterly love and sibling rivalry combine with first love, disappointment and rejection. You know the story!
Gerwig’s screenplay sings alongside some truly divine performances throughout the sublime journey that ensues. But it’s Gerwig’s ability to mix a modern take on female empowerment with classic period drama that’s stands out. Here, Amy benefits from the fleshed-out screenplay, allowing her character to soar above the original material. Meanwhile, the cinematography and score consistently enhance the sense of being wrapped in a warm blanket on a cold winters day.
But the real power behind Little Women sits in the fiery yet tender unspoken love that simmers beneath the surface. Here Chalamet’s Laurie is full of boyish charm as he attempts to woo the fierce and independent Jo. While at the same time, Amy longs for Laurie (who wouldn’t!) but equally desires her sister’s acceptance and love.
Director: Greta Gerwig
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