"Women telling women's stories", as Sucharita Tyagi would start this movie's review (sorry, couldn't help it).
I can't stress enough over how extremely important, director Greta Gerwig's storytelling impacts this 7th on screen adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's book, 'Little Women'.
Set in 1860's America, with a backdrop of the Civil War, this movie takes us on a journey through the life of four sisters and their mother, while their father is away for the war. Since in the 1860's, women had no way of earning their living by themselves, these little women struggle to make their way in a man's world. All the four sisters, have their own journeys, their own ambitions and their own struggles. What makes this movie beautiful is that it never judges a character, and never leaves the sensitivity in its handling of the characters or the story.
Greta's Little Women at its core is told from a very feminist point of view. The movie opens with Jo in a publishing house telling an editor that she's writing a novel about herself and her sisters. He remarks that she should make the story short and spicy, and if the lead character is a woman, make sure she gets married in the end. From here the movie narrates the life of each of the sisters in a non chronological way, jumping from past to present to past in no periodic pattern.
The lead protagonist Jo March, is a writer, and is the second oldest sister: she's feisty, non adhering and most prominently, passionate. Flawlessly played by Saoirse Ronan, she's a character you root for, in her open protest to not let go of her liberty, you can almost feel the air flowing through her hair while she walks on a beach and you almost feel yourself choke while she lays beside her sick sister, Beth (played by Eliza Scanlen).
The third sister, Amy, played by the incredible Florence Pugh has an almost equal screen time as the lead protagonist. Her character has a whole spectrum of emotions, reactions and situations. Always a step behind her sister Jo, she finds herself in a situation where she has to be the saviour for her family. As Jo struggles to make ends meet by writing and teaching, Amy goes to Paris in order to find herself a rich suitor to marry. In an arguably the most important scene for her character, Amy gives a monologue(to Laurie, their neighbor) about how for a woman, marriage is an economic proposition. Since there is no way she could earn enough for her family to live well the only beneficial way for her to live a well fed life is to marry a wealthy man. And she isn't ashamed of it. A statement which holds true even today, considering the systemic oppression of women and their dangerously low participation in education.
The oldest sister, Meg March played by Emma Watson, the most lady-like of them all, marries a school teacher. Remember what I said about the movie never judging its characters? That applies here. Even though the feminist gaze never leaves the movie, this gaze is never aggressive, in fact, it is kind: it respects its characters choices and their values. It's an incredibly humane gaze.
Their mother, Marmee, played by the ever smiling Laura Dern, is an ever patient support for the sister, who keeps them together. And even though she is calm, and patient all through the movie, in a soft and overwhelming moment, she tells Jo that she's almost always angry.
I would've talked about Laurie, played by Timothee Chalamet (kinda breathtakingly beautiful) but honestly he's just lost in the movie, as is his character.
Watch this movie for the perspective it offers, the beautiful storytelling, near perfect performances and most importantly, the fact that for women, times haven't brought about a change in some of their problems and yet still, little women continue to fight and thrive in a man's world.
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