Trying something new this afternoon – my first review! Hope you enjoy!
I realise I’m ever so slightly late to the party here, but I recently saw the film ‘Little Women’ and I was absolutely blown away.
Released on Boxing Day 2019, the film features a star-studded cast: Meryl Streep, Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Timothée Chalamet… I could go on and on. It’s an impressive list of both British and international acting talent.
Before going to see this movie, I was on the phone to a friend and mentioned my upcoming plans, I was told: ‘Ooooo Little Women?! Enjoy the colours, honestly, it’s just soooo nice to watch – there’s a really aesthetically pleasing tone to each scene.’ Whilst my initial reaction was: what an odd, and very millennial (#filter) comment to make – having now watched it, I TOTALLY get it. It’s gorgeous. Certain scenes carry a certain, yet subtle hue which adds to the films mesmerising quality.
Of course it helps when you have a great story to work with. Louisa May Alcott published the semi-autobiographical tale (originally released in two halves) in 1868 and 1869. Set during the American Civil War, it documents the lives of sisters Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. I’m cautious of becoming too absorbed into the narrative here, so I’ll finish my point with this: it’s an uplifting and beautiful story. A good start for any director.
Returning to the film, directed by Greta Gerwig, I was impressed by the natural, and seamless transitions between past and present. However it was indicated to the viewer – it always worked, and the confusion that can sometimes go hand-in-hand with this type of structure was, I’m pleased to say, avoided.
Other classic tick-box categories for those who review stage and screen were fulfilled, the costumes were stunning, sets stupendous, music sublime – and each was matched carefully to the scene. Particularly when Jo and Laurie are dancing outside of the ballroom (as Jo had been given strict instructions not to dance at the ball, as it would showcase her scorched dress) at an early point in the movie. Each turn, step and embrace was choreographed to the music – it looked effortless (though I doubt it was).
I left the cinema feeling a sense of balance. Fiery, powerful, emotional moments contrasted the softer and calmer scenes. Humour was used delicately – and appropriately, and themes were varied and subtle. Jo exclaims at one point: ‘Women – they have minds, and souls, as well as just hearts’ – a rare, and raw feminist outburst, a theme that is otherwise delicately intertwined into the story, perhaps for reasons of palatability.
Passion, creativity, a love for the arts are other themes – Meg’s the actor, Jo’s the writer, Amy’s the painter, and Beth’s the musician. Each character has their own journey towards self-belief in their respective fields. Beth’s is particularly poignant, taking the opportunity to play the piano in James Laurence’s house (Laurie’s grandfather), at his request. Caution transforms into confidence, and he later gifts her the piano. It’s a beautiful moment for other reasons (which I won’t elaborate – I don’t want to spoil it if you haven’t already seen it!)
Lastly, I think I loved this film so much because Watson (Meg), Ronan (Jo), Pugh (Amy), and Scanlen (Beth) connected their characters with me. Despite significant, and obvious contrasts: I’m not experiencing the American Civil War, I’m not particularly partial to a petticoat, and I’m definitely not soon to be married, I felt I empathised with Meg, Jo, Amy, and Beth in a way that really surprised me.
Meg’s frustrations, Jo’s passion, Amy’s creativity, Beth’s caution – the film just felt human. Emotion, and for me, empathy, never left the screen – not even for a second.