Little Women (2019)
The Dove Take:
The story here is probably over the heads of most children but given that there’s absolutely nothing objectionable here, it merits Dove approval for All Ages.
Fresh off of her success with Lady Bird, Academy Award-nominee writer/director Greta Gerwig moves Saoirse Ronan (Jo March), Emma Watson (Meg March), Florence Pugh (Amy March), and Eliza Scanlen (Beth March) around their high school years under the watchful eyes of Marmee March (Laura Dern) and Aunt March (Meryl Streep), and out into the world. That includes the dramatic intrigue around the sisters’ relationship with Laurie Laurence (Timothée Chalamet), and determining how they fit into the roles that society expects of them, or not.
In Gerwig’s version, the focus is on the stormy personalities of Jo and Amy, after the tragic loss of one of their sisters (revealed later in the film). [From an acting perspective, Ronan and Pugh steal the show, with Streep, of course, dominating her scenes.] But rather than have a single thread, Gerwig is happy to bounce back and forth between timelines, discussing the careers and aspirations of the sisters, fighting through societal expectations which attempt to squarely put women in a certain place. Ironically, one can imagine that Jo’s experience trying to sell her stories is akin to what Gerwig may have encountered in the world of film. That is to say that while Alcott’s work is a thing of history, the narrative themes displayed are certainly more current.
While the main cast is female, the stories here transcend gender as much as they’ve transcended time and space. The sisters battle (at first) and come to some understanding of who they are themselves, and how they relate to each other after their childhoods are over. What serves as the lesson here is that each sister’s dream is worth pursuing, however different it might be from all of the others, and no less valuable just because it is not appreciated by another. In fact, it’s such a great lesson: Be who you’re called to be, regardless of who might not understand.