Following the lives of four sisters, Amy (Florence Pugh), Jo (Saoirse Ronan), Beth (Eliza Scanlen) and Meg (Emma Watson), as they come of age in America in the aftermath of the Civil War. Though all very different from each other, the March sisters stand by each other through difficult and changing times.
When Greta Gerwig released the masterful coming-of-age film Lady Bird back in 2017, it blew away both critics and audiences alike with its true sense of heart, emotion, and relatability. That film for me was absolutely one of the best films of that year, and the fact that it was Gerwig’s directorial debut made it all the more impressive. How she went from an incredible actress to an incredible filmmaker is truly inspiring and after my first viewing of that film, I was so excited to see what else the young talent would create in her bright future.
Fast forward two years and we have Gerwig’s second film as director: Little Women; a 2019 reimagining of the Louisa May Alcott story of the same name from 1868. Throughout the years, there have been numerous film adaptations of this tale, with many of them also receiving much praise and all of them have been held in remarkably high regard too. Now, what I am about to say might seem immensely crazy, but it is the completely honest truth. I have never read Alcott’s Little Women, nor have I watched any of the older films of the same name. Yes, you heard that right. It most certainly does seem really hard to believe, as the story is one that is taught in schools all around the world and is widely considered to be one of the most popular books in literature, yet I somehow have still to this day not read it.
Perhaps more hard to believe is the fact that I have never seen any of the other films that have come before this one. To be honest with you, I don’t have any idea as to why I have not seen them either, but after today, that may have to change, because Greta Gerwig’s 2019 adaptation of Little Women is going to go down as a future classic.
This year, I have seen around ninety five to one hundred new release films in theatres, and this is in my top five favorite films of the year, which is funny as it will also be the last film I see in a theatre this year. What a way to end this year and even this decade.
Gerwig injects such a level of heart, whimsy, and emotion in this hugely wholesome masterpiece that uplifted my spirits throughout. This is a movie that I can almost guarantee will put a smile on your face at least a few times throughout. Me? I had a smile on my face nearly every second. Every frame of this film has something of interest going on and every moment that Gerwig has is used well. There is no baggage here. Little Women starts with a bang and it ends with a bang and in between is a story that I genuinely cared about, mainly because of the incredibly impressive script which Gerwig also wrote, most particularly the characters.
Saoirse Ronan, who previously starred as the titular Lady Bird, portrays Josephine “Jo” March here, a woman who loves to write and lives her life with her sisters and mother. She is somebody that is deeply passionate about her writing and it is genuinely everything to her, besides her sisters. Her character was not only my favorite of the bunch, but she was the most relatable character for me by far. In fact, I was actually surprised by how much I related to her character especially during key character moments later on. Her character is one that, as you learn more about, the more you root for her and Ronan delivers an absolutely remarkable performance here, perhaps the best of her career.
If anybody knows me, they know that Florence Pugh is my all-time favorite actress. Even though she is a new talent and one that I have discovered fairly recently, I am one hundred percent comfortable with saying that, and I truly believe that she is the most skilled actress of this generation. Her performance in this year’s Midsommar was one that took me by complete surprise. A performance so devastatingly real and powerful that it shook me to my core, and I just knew that there was something special about Pugh.
Yet again, Pugh delivers an extremely powerful performance, this time as Amy March. Her character is one that is honestly really easy to hate as she does things that are a bit infuriating at first. There is one moment fairly early on in this movie that made me dislike her character during that scene, but then a few moments later, I found myself feeling sorry for Amy. She is a character that, while not without her faults, has an undeniable charm to her and she is somebody that has a ton of depth. I am praying that Pugh gets an Academy Award nomination at the upcoming ceremony for either Midsommar or this film because she honestly deserves it. I would hate to see such strong talent go unrecognized, which is what I fear will happen, but I am hoping that I will be proven wrong.
If you have seen any of the trailers for Little Women, you would probably agree that this is a gorgeously shot film, in fact, it is one of the most stunning films of the whole year. Yorick Le Saux served as the director of photography here, and it is one of his best efforts yet. If you thought that the shots in the trailer were impressive, then you truly haven’t seen anything yet. Trust me. There were a few frames in particular here that left me in utter awe.
This is also a picture that has a beautiful and euphoric score from the legendary Alexandre Desplat. This is not a score that is loud and in your face, but carefully quiet and moving whenever it needs to be. During certain emotional beats in the story, the score works in a way that manages to pull at your heartstrings in an effective way, thanks to Desplat. He is a composer that is incredibly skilled and this score is no exception.
Something that I have been seeing a ton of people talk about on the internet is the editing here, by Nick Houy. Throughout this entire film, we jump between time periods. One scene we watch may be taking place a few years in the past, and then the very next one could be taking place in the present. Some people found this a little bit confusing and hard to follow, but it actually did not bother me at all. To be truthful, I thought Houy’s editing was impressive, strong, and incredibly unique.
This is a movie that I only saw one day ago, yet I desperately want to go out and see it again, because it is just that good. I liked this even more than Lady Bird to be honest, and even though this is a film that is almost two and a half hours in length, I get a strong feeling that this is one that I will be revisiting again and again for years to come.
Little Women is a modern day masterpiece that further cements Greta Gerwig as a skilled filmmaker. It has euphoric music, excellent cinematography, and powerhouse performances from Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh.
Overall Grade: A+
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements and brief smoking
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Timothée Chalamet, Meryl Streep, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk, James Norton, Louis Garrel, Chris Cooper, Jayne Houdyshell, Abby Quinn
Directed by: Greta Gerwig
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Releasing
Running Time: 135 minutes