Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Timothée Chalamet, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern and Meryl Streep
Directed by Greta Gerwig Written by Louisa May Alcott and Greta Gerwig
Length: 134 mins
Adapted from the brilliant work of Louisa May Alcott, and directed by Greta Gerwig, ‘Little Women’ follows the story of four sisters who come-of-age in the USA in the 1860’s, a time when every household was affected by the civil war that divided the country. The story mainly follows how these four women adapt to this world, as they must quickly learn to support themselves and their own family.
‘Little Women’ has drawn much attention from the wide-array of successful actors within the feature, with the story led by Saoirse Ronan as Jo March, who provides a captivating performance. Attempting to balance a life of supporting her family whilst also making a successful career as a writer, Jo finds herself encountering romances, drawbacks from her writing and issues due to her gender. Ronan approaches all of these events in a way that truly embodies the character, and she appears on screen truly as Jo March. Though the clear lead of the narrative, Ronan’s time on-screen is well balanced between the rest of the characters, allowing for significant development between the sisters and those around them, whilst also leaving space for a satisfying conclusion that focuses on Jo’s own story.
Florence Pugh also delivers an excellent interpretation of Amy March, the youngest of the four sisters. With a narrative that frequently changes between the present and a previous series of events, the duality between Amy’s earlier adolescence and her later intelligence and maturity is brilliantly portrayed through not only the performance, but the film’s direction also. Her status as an aspiring artist puts her experiences into a similar vein as Jo March’s, and through often times nuanced and subtle mannerisms Pugh does an excellent job of expressing her struggles as someone who is often considered to be second-best.
The supporting roles within this film are also well-balanced and serve the narrative exactly as required. Timothée Chalamet performs as Theodore Laurence – the grandson of the March’s wealthy neighbour – dancing between all of the sister’s stories and influencing each in a unique way. Furthermore, the performances from Laura Dern, Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper all provide their own voice to the story through the small quirks and subtle expressions of their characters, and only further develop the relationships of the film’s little women.
This film is beautifully shot, and the idea that each frame should tell the story visually is one that Greta Gerwig is highly successful at throughout. The use of 35mm, each scene’s composition and framing, as well as the set and costume design all build to moments of cinema that eloquently display the narrative rather than tell it. The musical composition is light when necessary, but also further explores the emotions of the film without the need to be pronounced. There are also a few scenes of more-experimental direction, such as characters reading their letters and notes directly into the camera in a setting that is removed from any other scene. Reminiscent of Spike Lee’s ‘Do the Right Thing,’ these shots only further benefit the conversation that this film explores, with themes linking to gender and equality in equal measure.
Louisa May Alcott’s ‘Little Women’ is a powerful piece of feminist literature, and Greta Gerwig continues to tell the story with further exploration into the status that women have in our world, in both the story’s setting and present day. In the film, Amy March says that “I want to be great, or nothing.” For Gerwig the same appears to be true, and with ‘Little Women’ she has created something truly great.