The March family have a lot going on. Jo (Saoirse Ronan) is trying to make it as a writer, Beth (Eliza Scanlen) isn’t feeling too great, Amy (Florence Pugh) is out adventuring in Europe and Meg (Emma Watson) is trying to manage the household in her mother’s (Laura Dern) absence.
I’ve never read Little Women so I went into the film as an entirely blank canvas. In fact my only real exposure to the book is through the Friends episode where Joey reads Little Women, while Rachel tackles The Shining. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I absolutely loved director Greta Gerwig’s debut movie, Lady Bird.
Despite being written in the 19th century Little Women feels relevant to today. At its heart it’s about the trials and tribulations of four young women trying to make their way in the world. It’s an old-fashioned setting but with incredibly contemporary themes as the sisters try to realise their hopes and dreams beyond marriage and children. I really felt like I was watching a classic tale that’s infused with 21st century ideals.
I found Little Women to be utterly compelling from start to finish, it’s one of those fantastic films that draws you in and doesn’t let go. There are no dramatic mysteries to solve, there are no action set pieces or even the sniff of an arch villain. It’s a story that is built on its characters and they all work brilliantly. While it might be Saoirse Ronan be the obvious point of adulation it was Florence Pugh who really impressed me as Amy. I suppose that she is the closest thing to an antagonist that we get in the film, but that’s rooted in her character. She’s the youngest of four sisters and wants desperately to be with her sisters, join in on their adventures and not be left behind. It’s a really great performance as she manages to balance being the bratty younger sister but also someone who is far more measured than her sisters at times.
As far as I can gather the most significant change from the book is that the film takes a non-linear approach to the events. Greta Gerwig has shifted from a traditional sequential narrative to hop back and forth in time. This means that we first get to meet our heroines later in their lives and we can jump in and out of their stories to see the things that shaped them.
Little Women was a Huge surprise for me, I thought I’d enjoy it based on Greta Gerwig’s previous work but I never expected to be quite so taken with it. It’s a compelling story with wonderful performances. It’s warm and engaging and heartbreaking all at the same time.