Greta Gerwig’s ‘Little Women’ Is Simply Exquisite

Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women is one of those stories that is embedded into the psyche of American culture. Many of us, at one point or another, have cracked open the pages of the timeless classic, sliding into the world of the March sisters — watching them live, love and exist amid the rumblings of the Civil War period.

The story could have been an exhausting tale of middle-class white women living their daily lives at a time when slavery and war were literally ripping people apart. However, what Alcott did, and what director Greta Gerwig has done in turn with her stellar adaptation, is center the film on women’s financial and artisitic freedom. Little Women asks women to define womanhood for ourselves.

‘Little Women’ is bold without being cutesy or sentimental

Stripping away the cutesy and sentimental layers that we often thrust on period dramas — particularly ones set in the 19th century– Gerwig’s Little Women follows the March sisters –bold (Saoirse Ronan), quiet Beth (Eliza Scanlen), romantic Meg (Emma Watson) and fiesty Amy (Florence Pugh) across the most pivotal decade of their lives.

Diving into a true understanding of sisterhood, bonds, and connections –the March sisters are fully realized and very different women. Though Ronan’s Jo centers the story, Gerwig offers all of the women, including Meryl Streep’s stern Aunt March and March matriarch Marmee (Laura Dern), the opportunity to bend and stretch against the constraints placed upon women at the time. These are bindings we are still trying to untangle today.

Little Women opens with Jo standing outside of a New York publisher’s office– manuscript in hand. Just as quickly as we’re introduced to the character, Gerwing zips her audience back in time. Instead of beginning with the March sisters’ adolescence — the film begins in their teen years. We witness the most pivotal points of their lives as they begin making the choices that will shape who they are forever.

Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet deliver one of the best scenes of the year

We’re also introduced to Jo’s best friend, Laurie (Timothée Chalamet) — a wealthy young man consumed with his love for her. Unfortunately, the idea of marriage and being tied down feels suffocating to Jo. The proposal scene between Jo and Laurie is one of the best cinematic pieces of the year. Yet, the exploration of Jo’s relationship with Amy is the most intriguing part of the film. Instead of positioning the Amy as a brat — Pugh gives the aspiring artist wit and depth. She’s the exact opposite of Jo in many ways, but that doesn’t make her want, dreams and aspirations any less valuable. By the end of the film Gerwig achieves something that Alcott never could, Amy is seen as she really is.

Ronan is the film’s fierce leader. She’s deliberate, firm and a joy to watch on screen. Shedding the petticoats and lace of the era- Ronan’s Jo stands tall in paired down chic menswear — defining her character as modern but never underestimated.

‘Little Women’ is about womanhood, childhood and those awkward bits in the middle

Gorgeously shot by cinematographer Yorick Le Saux — Little Women is stunning and robust. Every woman onscreen is full, vibrant, and alive despite their circumstances (though more time could have been spent with Watson’s Meg). Gerwig delivers a true understanding of womanhood, childhood and those award stumbles in between. Using Alcott’s words and her own lens, Gerwig paints a stunning portrait of a family, and one young woman’s quest to define her life for herself.

Little Women debuts in theaters Christmas 2019.