Director: Greta Gerwig
Run Time: 2h 15min
On December 19th, when my best friend asked me to re-read Little Women in advance of going with her to see the new movie, I laughed. Reading a 470-page classic was out of the question if I wanted to hit my Goodreads year-end challenge. But then my friend said, “As a teenager when I read Little Women, I related to Jo. This time––as a mom––I related to Marmee.”
So somewhere between gift-wrapping and cookie-baking, I read the book, got my Goodreads confetti, and saw the movie a few days after its release. I won’t bore you with a book-versus-movie comparison. Instead, I will call attention to the fresh structure of the film and the modern messaging for today’s moms and daughters.
Director Greta Gerwig puts her modern signature on the film right out of the gate as Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) stares into the camera, convincing her editor to publish her novel. From there, Gerwig leads us forward and backward through time, tracking the stories of the four March sisters. Jo’s care of her sister Beth (Eliza Scanlen) acts as a braided cord, drawing us ever closer to the film’s climax. As family crises and love stories unfold, the unpredictable timeline keeps the middle of the two-hour movie pulled taut. Meg March (Emma Watson) is the only character that seems to have gotten a bit shortchanged in the novels adaptation to screen. Perhaps her precise struggles with young married life were less relevant to today’s audiences.
Gerwig’s time-jumping approach expertly reframes ageless questions for modern audiences: What happens when deep friendships blossom into unexpected love? When faced with the devastating illness of a child, to whom do we turn for solace? What sacrifices do women make for their art? Ultimately, Gerwig does not fully explore Marmee’s question: how do we let go of our “sisters” and “daughters” as they travel their own paths in life, love, and family?
Whether you are new to the story or the novel holds a special place in your heart, this film is perfect for a multi-generational girl’s matinee and a lovely conversation over a shared meal.
In February another classic novel will come to life on the silver screen. Gray-bearded Harrison Ford will star alongside a computer-generated St. Bernard in an adaptation of Jack London’s The Call of the Wild. (Am I the only one who thinks Ford has aged fantastically?) The trailer looks promising, and thankfully for moms of boys who want to read the book before they see the movie, The Call of the Wild at full fighting weight is only 66 pages.
It’s been a long time since I’ve read Little Women. I think you’ve inspired me to do so before seeing the movie. Thanks for the fun review. I’m sure the kids you work with on college essays decide writing can be more than tedious, it can be fun. Good luck on that novel.