Four sisters come of age in America in the aftermath of the Civil War.
Louisa May Alcott’s ‘Little Women’ is a classic of American literature and it’s been adapted for the screen on numerous occasions, with Greta Gerwig the latest to tackle the story of the March sisters. Coming off ‘Lady Bird’, which was one of the best coming of age films of recent years, Gerwig is perfectly suited to this tale of four young women trying to find their place in the world in the aftermath of the American Civil War, and her approach to adapting the novel works really well. The period drama genre can often be stuffy and difficult to take too, but Gerwig’s take feels fresh and I thought it was a really good film.
The first major decision Gerwig makes is to start the story at the end, introducing us to the March sisters as adults before going back in time to their teenage years growing up in New England. The film’s non linear approach to the narrative really worked for me and kept the story exciting, albeit having not read the book there’s a lot of reliance on the audience to keep up (which I just about managed!). The casting is terrific, with Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh particularly impressive as Jo and Amy, the two March sisters who seem permanently at odds with one another. Their bickering feels relatable to anyone who has a sibling and I felt the filmmakers deftly handled the transition from youthful resentment to something more long lasting as they get older and their desires start to clash. The one misstep I felt was in the character of Laurie, played here by Timothee Chalamet (an actor I really like), who I felt derailed key aspects of the story. He’s sleazy and deceitful, and having two of the main characters pine over him undermines the independence of these characters. Having not read the book I don’t know whether he is like this in the novel or if it’s Chalamet’s portrayal, but certainly in this film it’s an aspect I didn’t like.
The trials and tribulations of the March sisters is retold superbly by Greta Gerwig, who manages to make her adaptation feel contemporary without sacrificing the traditional spirit of the source material. It’s rare to see a period drama buzz with so much life, and this charming version of ‘Little Women’ is very good.
Directed By: Greta Gerwig
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Timothee Chalamet, Meryl Streep, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk, James Norton, Louis Garrel, Chris Cooper, Jayne Houdyshell and Abby Quinn