Greta Gerwig, an actress recently turned director, just released her first-ever written and directed film, Lady Bird. Played by Saoirse Ronan, the movie follows a high school senior, the self-named Lady Bird, while she navigates the difficulties surrounding relationships with her mother, friends, and boyfriends, all while searching for her identity in the year preceding her high school graduation. The film has garnered a massive fan base and has broken the record for the most consecutive positive reviews (and has a 100% positive rating) on Rotten Tomatoes. As the movie portrays Lady Bird’s struggle through adolescence in 2002, it weaves a tale that is as timeless as it is memorable and as funny as it is touching.
Perhaps in one of the most meaningful moments of the film, a nun at Lady Bird’s Catholic high school says to the titular character after reading her college essay detailing Sacramento, “Don’t you think they are the same thing? Love and attention?” This idea enriches the entire story and sheds a light on the major crux of the movie: namely, Lady Bird’s rocky relationship with her mother, Marion, played by Laurie Metcalf. Lady Bird is frustrated by her mother’s seemingly constant criticisms, her family’s lack of wealth in comparison to her classmates, and her desire to leave Sacramento and attend college on the East Coast. Throughout the span of the film, Lady Bird and Marion bounce back and forth between having moments of laughter and tenderness and intense arguing. Their relationship is influenced by their individual perspectives on the family’s economic hardships, and the ups and downs of their interactions can be both jarring and relatable. By hearing the nun’s musings on attention and love, Lady Bird begins to realize that as much as she complains about her situation, she and her mother’s frustrations are rooted in love.
In our modern world of smartphones and immediate gratification, perhaps this message of the interconnectedness of love and attention is all the more potent. So often, we miss out on important parts of our lives because we’re too impatient or distracted to notice them. We forget that sometimes the best gift we have to offer another person is to be present with them. Lady Bird is more than a relatable coming-of-age story: it’s a reminder to focus on our relationships, the places around us, and where we are in the moment. To truly pay attention to what we love, and to the things we pay attention to.