Little Women (2019)

Backed by superb performances, particularly from Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh, Greta Gerwig’s screen adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel is refreshing, poignant and utterly compelling.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review #1,849

Dir. Greta Gerwig
2019 | USA | Drama/Romance | 135 mins | 1.85:1 | English & French
PG (passed clean) for thematic elements and brief smoking

Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Timothee Chalamet, Tracy Letts, Chris Cooper, Meryl Streep
Plot: Jo March reflects back and forth on her life, telling the beloved story of the March sisters – four young women each determined to live life on their own terms.
Awards: Won 1 Oscar – Best Costume Design & Nom. for 5 Oscars – Best Picture, Best Leading Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score
Distributor: Sony Pictures

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Family-Friendly
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: In Theatres – Golden Village VivoCity
Spoilers: No

Greta Gerwig’s ascendancy as a director continues forth with her screen adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel.  Little Women is an even better film than Lady Bird (2017), and deserves more Oscar buzz. 

In fact, I pray that she wins the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay; she should also have been nominated for Best Director over Todd Phillips for Joker (2019). 

There has been a number of adaptations of Alcott’s work over the decades, most notably the 1994 film directed by Gillian Armstrong, and George Cukor’s 1933 Hollywood classic starring Katharine Hepburn. 

But Gerwig retells the famous story of the four sisters—Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth—in a unique way, intercutting between the spirited past when they were younger, and a dourer present.  Such is the seamless editing that each segment, past or present, informs the other by developing the characters across time. 

“Women, they have minds, and they have souls, as well as just hearts. And they’ve got ambition, and they’ve got talent, as well as just beauty. I’m so sick of people saying that love is just all a woman is fit for.”

More compellingly, the film also attempts to draw karmic parallels between past and present in several sequences, the most emotional of which is Beth’s narrative.  As such, Gerwig’s version is refreshing, poignant and poetic. 

Backed by superb performances from the ensemble cast, particularly from Saoirse Ronan, who plays Jo and whose perspective we mainly take.  Ronan is one of the finest actresses of her generation—she has both beauty and substance, plus it is difficult not to be infatuated by her!  Florence Pugh, who had a breakthrough 2019 with Midsommar, also impresses as Amy. 

Little Women is not just one of the best movies of 2019, but also rather modern in its treatment despite its period setting.  Gerwig somehow manages to say something incisive about the status and position of women both in the context of the narrative as well as in our current social climate where women’s voices are decreasingly falling on deaf ears. 

Grade: A-




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