TRCH Ranulph

Film Review: Little Women

30 December 19 words: George White

One half of our new Screen editor team, George White, headed down to Broadway Cinema to check out a very late potential entry for best film of 2019...

Director: Greta Gerwig

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh

Running time: 135 mins

The week between Christmas and New Year is usually this weird period where you forget what day of the week it is and nothing of great significance happens. Yet in 2019, this period saw the release of one of the best and most important films of the year, with Greta Gerwig’s much-anticipated Little Women providing a fresh, modern and truly enjoyable take on this seemingly timeless tale.

Little Women adapts Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel of the same name, and follows the story of four sisters as they try to navigate what it means to be women in 19th century America. The film does this in a non-linear fashion, with the story zipping back-and-forth across multiple periods in the characters’ lives. While this method of storytelling can often be confusing, Gerwig’s approach helps to entertain the audience from start to finish, ensuring that there are always serious stakes for the characters whilst keeping the pacing of the movie steady throughout. 

Gerwig’s script is also remarkable, expertly adapting the poignant themes of the story for modern audiences through witty dialogue and compelling plot points. The film brilliantly tackles a number of important issues, including class and family, but its focus on feminism is most impactful. 

Through the various stories and struggles of the four sisters, the audience witnesses the range of issues that women were - and still are - faced with. Gerwig’s exploration of these characters demonstrates that being a woman can mean whatever the individual chooses it to be, and the film communicates its messages without feeling preachy - showing an impressive ability to leave a mark on the audience without hammering home its principles. 

The interactions between the characters are absolutely captivating, with Gerwig’s sharp script leading to charming and enjoyable relationships within the March household. The film is delightfully funny and enchants the audience with its honest outlook on love, family and friendship. The characters are instantly well-developed - to the point where the audience would be happy to simply observe the four sisters as they go about their frantic, fascinating everyday lives.

Don’t be surprised if Little Women makes a big impression come awards season.

Alcott’s characters are brought to life by a stellar cast, all of whom do a wonderful job of executing Gerwig’s work. A special mention should be given to Timothee Chalamet, who is exceptionally charismatic as Laurie, but this film is very much about the women themselves. Emma Watson (Meg) and Eliza Scanlen (Beth) are effective in their roles, but the performances of Florence Pugh (Amy) and Saoirse Ronan (Jo) steal the show. 

Pugh is genuinely hilarious as Amy, with her cheeky quips and intoxicating free-spiritedness making her one of the most enjoyable characters of the year. Yet she layers this with splendid emotional weight in the film’s more serious moments, again demonstrating the immense level of talent that Pugh possesses. And Ronan is award-worthy as the movie’s central focus, providing an emotionally complex performance that vividly demonstrates the inner anxiety and confusion that her character is experiencing. Ronan’s Jo is not only the main focal point of Gerwig’s exploration of modern feminism, but also supplies the audience’s perspective into the chaotic world of the March family, doing so with excellent nuance and intricacy. 

Gerwig’s direction is also incredible. Her dynamic and energetic camerawork effectively emphasises the film’s more entertaining moments, and her reserved, patient long-takes immerse the audience in the movie’s more intimate narrative beats. Gerwig’s work is complemented by Yorick Le Saux’s gorgeous cinematography, which perfectly captures the beauty of the film’s stunning set and costume design - helping to make this one of the most aesthetically satisfying productions of the year. 

These attractive visuals underline the grace of Gerwig’s storytelling, with her natural and charming script, excellently delivered by a stellar cast, making this one of the most essential films of 2019. Don’t be surprised if Little Women makes a big impression come awards season. 

Did you know? Although they portray heroines of American literature, none of the four leading actors are American. Emma Watson and Florence Pugh are English, Saoirse Ronan is Irish, and Eliza Scanlen is from Australia. 

Little Women is screening at Broadway Cinema until Thursday 9 January