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Film Review: Little Women (2019) dir. Greta Gerwig

A few weeks ago I went to see Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s children’s classic, Little Women! I’ve never read the book, nor have I seen any other adaptation, so I went in with nothing to compare it to. I don’t know if that had anything to do with my response to it, but regardless, I absolutely adored this film! I had high expectations anyway – anything Greta Gerwig touches is golden – but I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did. This review will contain one or two spoilers about the film, so if you haven’t seen it, proceed with caution!

little women march sisters
The March sisters. L-R: Beth (Eliza Scanlen), Jo (Soairse Ronan), Meg (Emma Watson), and Amy (Florence Pugh).

Gerwig’s adaptation features some of the most talented young actors working right now. Florence Pugh puts in an incredible performance as Amy, both as the youngest, irritating and antagonistic sister of the first half and as the compassionate and strong-willed artist that she grows into. She’s since been nominated for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for this role, up against her onscreen mother, Laura Dern, who is nominated for her role in Marriage Story. The second March sister, Beth, is played by Eliza Scanlen; a relative newcomer. She’s previously starred in the TV adaptation of Sharp Objects, but originally got her break in the long-running Aussie soap, Home and Away. I’d never seen Scanlen in anything before, but she played an excellent Beth and it was clear why she was the most adored of sisters. Scanlen’s Beth was shy and vulnerable, and I found her scenes with

Marmee (Laura Dern) and the March sisters.

Saoirse Ronan is no stranger to period dramas and continues her run of stellar performances as Jo March, whose writing frames the story. She’s rash and impulsive and passionate, and Ronan has some fantastic scenes in this film which really show off her talents. This role has given Ronan her fourth Academy Award nomination, and it could well-deservedly be her first win. Ronan’s Jo in Little Women epitomises everything about the character which has made her somewhat of an iconic influence on young readers of the novel.

Meg, the oldest of the March sisters, is played by Emma Watson, obviously of Harry Potter fame. I’ve never quite clicked with any of Watson’s subsequent roles and I don’t know if it’s my inability to see her anything other than Hermione Granger, or it it’s genuinely Watson’s acting, but she puts in a solid performance as the eldest and most serious of the March sisters, and it did warm me to her.

Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) with Theodore “Laurie” Laurence (Timothée Chalamet).

The four actresses together portray a beautiful picture of sisterhood, with all of its ups and downs. Alongside the sisters, Laura Dern puts in a fantastic performance as their mother, Marmee. I’m a huge fan of Laura Dern and in my eyes, she can do no wrong, but she really excels herself in the role of the sisters’ selfless and nurturing mother. Meryl Streep’s Aunt March was also brilliantly funny, and I loved the softness that Amy brings out in her.

Last, but certainly not least, Timothée Chalamet is the cheeky and charming Laurie. I’ve always liked Chalamet, but this role hugely elevated my love for him. When he appeared on screen for the first time, I leaned over to my friend and whispered “Timothée!” but she sternly told me “No, we don’t like Laurie!” I think maybe Gerwig’s adaptation is a lot kinder to Laurie than the original text and previous adaptations, as my friend (who has read Little Women) explained afterwards that there were particular lines or scenes in the book that don’t paint Laurie in the greatest light; moments which didn’t make the cut in Gerwig’s film. I personally really loved Laurie and the dynamic between him and Jo that was presented in the film, and his subsequent relationship with Amy too.

The film runs over two hours, but it certainly doesn’t feel long at all. The pacing is perfect, every scene builds up the characters and their relationships. The scenes between the siblings range from hilarious to heartbreaking, and I felt so many emotions watching this film. I would highly recommend it, with or without having first read the book. In short, Greta Gerwig does it again. It’s hugely unfortunate that she wasn’t nominated for Best Director for her efforts, but fingers crossed that the film as a whole will nab Best Picture, or at least Best Adapted Screenplay!

Have you seen Little Women yet?
Have you read the book?

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