Little Women – a beautiful study of art, life and love

Hugely talented writer/director Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel LITTLE WOMEN will make your heart soar.

I left the cinema with a real sense of joy after seeing writer/director Greta Gerwig’s new version of LITTLE WOMEN. This novel by the American writer Louisa May Alcott has been a beloved read for young women and, in fact, any age group since its publication in 1868. And it’s obvious the story of the four March sisters in the time of the American Civil War, made a huge impact on Gerwig as her deep affection for the characters and this tale of art, life and love is evident from her beautiful adaptation.

Saoirse Ronan as Jo with Timothee Chalamet as Laurie in Little Women

Saoirse Ronan as Jo with Timothee Chalamet as Laurie, her childhood friend

I really felt this movie was a huge accomplishment for Gerwig, following her debut as writer/director with the highly-praised Lady Bird in 2017. Whilst I enjoyed and admired Gerwig’s story of a year in the life of the titular teenager (wonderfully played by Saiorse Ronan) I thought that what she achieved with LITTLE WOMEN was on another level.

To take on a much-loved classic novel, much more epic in scope and produce such a witty, warm and heartfelt film was made all the more disappointing that unlike Lady Bird, she wasn’t nominated for an Oscar as ‘Best Director’. Anyway, she deserved one in my book.

But to the film itself, which contains some of the best performances you’ll see this year – and we’re only in January! When you’re thinking of someone to play the hugely-spirited and somewhat tomboyish Jo March, who else could it be but Saoirse Ronan? Since memorably arriving on our screens in Joe Wright’s Atonement in 2007, I’ve loved the sheer variety of work that Ronan has taken on. Thinking she had hit a career-high with her Oscar-nominated turn in John Crowley’s beautiful and moving 2015 film Brooklyn, she went and blew me away with her career-best performance to date in this. She is astonishing as the serious and creative-minded Jo, who in pursuit of her writing, looks to sacrifice love along the way.

Timothee Chalamet as Laurie with Florence Pugh as Amy in Little Women

Chalamet’s Laurie becomes close to Florence Pugh’s Amy

That potential love is Timothee Chalamet‘s childhood friend Laurie. Ronan and Chalamet’s previous work together in Lady Bird is built on brilliantly here and their scenes together are playful, carefree and ultimately, very tender. But Chalamet’s incendiary talent also connects fantastically with Florence Pugh as Amy March in the latter half of the film as we learn the true feelings this sister has held for Laurie. There’s been much talk of Pugh’s portrayal changing people’s opinions of Amy, the youngest of the sisters who is originally seen as the annoying baby of the family but who here grows into a superbly astute young woman. Pugh is quite simply mesmerising every time she’s on-screen and awards recognition will surely follow.

Whilst her portrayal hasn’t garnered the same level of praise as Pugh’s Amy, I thought Eliza Scanlen as Beth March was completely stunning. Having been wowed by Scanlen’s performance on the limited tv series Sharp Objects, she is no less impressive here as we see her as central to one of the key moments in the sisters’ lives.

The rest of Gerwig’s cast is just as stellar as the aforementioned. There’s Emma Watson as eldest sister Meg March, Laura Dern as the sisters’ mother Marmee, Bob Odenkirk as their father, Chris Cooper as their kindly neighbour Mr Laurence, the always tremendous Tracy Letts as publisher Mr Dashwood and a certain Meryl Streep as the imperious Aunt March. Everyone is on their absolute A-game in LITTLE WOMEN and this extraordinary ensemble delivers Gerwig’s screenplay with aplomb. This is a film that will make your heart soar – see it.