Having made a remarkably good teen drama in the form of Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig turns her eye to an altogether more classic text for her sophomore directorial effort. And yet she finds the same wit and emotional sweep as she did before, reshaping Louisa May Alcott's text into a relevant piece that deconstructs what it is to be a woman, as it follows the March sisters through their loves and losses during the American Civil War.
Gerwig imbues her film with a warmth that makes it infectious, offering a charming escape form the world around us. Little Women is a film packed with humour, adapted from Alcott's novel with a lightness and charm. And yet moments here and there are deeply impactful. A hillside conversation devastates, while the return of a long-absent figure is euphoric. Gerwig envelopes audiences in an inviting bath, with her chocolate box concoction lulling us into a false sense of security. This means when the emotions hit, as they do throughout, they hit harder and deeper, finding a greater resonance than what may have been there before.
Cinematographer Yorick Le Saux gives the film a truly gorgeous palette, often shooting to emulate natural light. There is a warmth to Little Women, but also a coldness that can surprise. Alexandre Desplat's score is sweepingly majestic, whilst editor Nick Houy skilfully juggles competing timelines, weaving the narrative to fit Gerwig's remarkable re-envisioning of the text. It can not be stressed enough how perfect an idea it is to run multiple timelines almost simultaneously, allowing the viewer to cross from happy times to sadder ones. There is no pandering to the audience here, just an expectation that we will be able to keep up. The subtle shifts in design - thanks to splendid work from Jacqueline Durran (whose costume drama work is second to none) and Jess Gonchor - aid this, but Little Women's narrative structure works because the film is confident in it from the moment it begins.
As with Lady Bird, Gerwig casts a film packed with star turns. There are fabulous supporting performances from the likes of Meryl Streep (gaining many of the film's laughs), Chris Cooper (quiet and impactful) and Tracy Letts (following on from his scene-stealing turn in
Gerwig's return to the director's chair is a welcome one, producing a Little Women for the modern age. Powered by a pair of terrific performances from two of the best actors of their generation, and a team of gifted creatives behind the scenes, this truly one of the season's best, and a cinematic must-see.