This was a coming-of-age film recommended to me by my sixteen-year-old sister, it is something that she is extremely passionate about; it moved her.
Christine “Ladybird” McPherson is a confused, naive know-it-all that is convinced she is entirely unique, something that many teenagers know far too well. She is self-centred, obnoxious and continuously trying to become a romanticised version of herself. Ladybird makes numerous mistakes, and it is through these mistakes which you really see the charm of this film. Throughout the film, she navigates the awkward age of eighteen, the trials and errors of living on the cusp of adulthood but never really understanding what it is like until she experiences it.
Technically speaking, it is a good film. It’s shot well, almost lovingly by Greta Gerwig and its clear to the audience that it was her own coming of age story. Certain moments hit the benchmark of gravitas in a beautifully satisfying way, a handful of incomplete letters says a lot more than any witty dialogue.
However, I couldn’t help but shake that feeling that I’ve missed something. The passion that my sister described this with, the idolisation she has for this film, is not there for me.
This is not to say this film doesn’t have its highlights. Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf’s portrayal of a messy mother-daughter relationship is glorious. Various moments throughout the film show the complexity, the airport scene and last scene, in particular, are incredibly realistic and meaningful. However, what really drives the relationship is that familiar push-and-pull of Ladybird and her mother, the snippy almost mean comments moments before sincere love is a beautiful foil for the overarching theme of contradiction. It is these contradictions that allow “Ladybird” to grow throughout the film, she’s changing, and under all the pretentious blustering she has no idea who she’s going to be and what will happen.
It is a poignant gesture that my sister recommended this to me. I may not be able to experience it to such a passionate degree as her; however, I can clearly understand the sentiment of the recommendation.
Seventeen years on from the cinematic release of Sofia Coppola’s “Lost In Translation” and this film has only gained more relevance in our modern age. As much as it can be considered a caricature of Japanese culture, the bright lights and overstimulating culture shock of Tokyo only adds to the theme of loneliness running through the very veins of this film. The cinematography wonderfully illustrates this, the beautiful way the scenes are lit and the various shots of the neon and bustling Tokyo depicts why the bond between these two foreigners in a confusing land is so poignant.
The performances from Bill Muray and Scarlett Johnasson are what drives the narrative. Muray stars as the ageing Bob Harris, a washed-up actor with a crumbling marriage and who is in Japan to film a commercial. Johansson’s Charlotte is also in Japan, young and having just graduated she is supporting her husband John, a celebrity photographer. She finds herself struggling with his lifestyle and the stale nature of their marriage.
A series of chance encounters occur, leading Bob and Charlotte to meet and then grow closer with each shared experience. The dialogue between them is special in its simplicity, the subtleties of what they don’t say speaks volumes of their confusion and raw exhaustion with the tedious world that they live in.
This is not to say the film is faultless, the pacing in the first half is often a bit slow and the obvious complaints of xenophobia regarding the portrayal of Japanese culture are a major blight on this film. However, what this film does to a brilliant degree is connect deeply with the viewers’ own sense of melancholy. It is clear that Coppola’s directing and script deserve clear merit for being able to demonstrate the connection between these two neglected souls and why this matters to the audience. We are able to recognise the monotony of our own lives through these characters, able to empathise with the magic of being truly understood. That is what makes this film special and well worth watching.