Little Women review – this girl is on fire
Updated: Feb 20, 2020
If anyone can bring the March family back onto the big screen with all the joys and heartaches as Louisa May Alcott’s original novel, it would of course be Greta Gerwig. Little Women may look like a film for and about women, but it’s so much more.
The second oldest sibling of four girls, Jo (Saoirse Ronan) is a teacher and writer in New York when we first meet her, earning a mediocre wage to support her family back home in Massachusetts. Unlike many remakes of the classic story, Gerwig’s film doesn’t use different actors to show the characters growing up, but instead we see the sisters’ story through various flashbacks occurring between Jo’s trip to visit her ill sister, Beth.
Seven years earlier, the sister’s rumble, playfight, giggle, and argue under the not-so-stern, loving eye of their mother (or ‘Marmee’ as she is more affectionately known), played effortlessly and gracefully by Laura Dern. Meg (Emma Watson), the oldest, Jo notes has a talent for acting, but it’s clear her heart is elsewhere. While she might not be desperate for fame, she longs for fortune, even despite falling for a “penniless tutor”. Jo, the protagonist and most determined of her family aims to forever be herself and unapologetically so. While her older sibling is responsible and maternal, Jo is vivacious and impulsive. The other middle child, Beth (Eliza Scanlen), is gentle and shy. Despite this, her musical talents are a source of joy to the entire family. Finally, the baby of the group, is Amy. Florence Pugh brings a much more grown-up attitude to the character, but in flashbacks her spoilt attitude is the main cause of sibling rivalry. Well, Jo and Amy rivalry.
Since childhood, Amy claims she had always felt second-best around Jo. It’s probably their alikeness that makes it so, since they’re both seemingly as passionate and tough as each other. In a discussion with their rich, handsome neighbour, Amy exclaims, “I want to be great, or nothing.” A burden so heart-breaking to see her carry around.
Their rivalry only continues when said neighbour, Laurie (Timothée Chalamet), falls in love. There really couldn’t have been better casting for the role of Laurie as every scene he shares with Saoirse Ronan is charming and delightful. One that stands out in particular being the silent film-like dance sequence. But will it be the bright, strong-willed Jo who claims she’ll never marry, or the stubborn, but wonderful Amy who wants to come out from behind her sister’s shadow? Perhaps it’s Meg who is the only sister to truly figure out what marriage means to her, as she finds herself finally becoming content with less money and more love.
Each character brings their own slice of heart and soul into this beautiful and picturesque film. It’s a story that may have been told many times in many different ways, but none quite so profound or as touching as this. Little Women is funny, charismatic, and breath-taking until the very end, though you may underestimate how much you will cry. In the words of the great Marmee herself, “pretty things should be enjoyed”.
Written by Libby Briggs
Images courtesy of Sony Pictures