My favourite films are the ones in which I am fully thrust into a world I not only enjoy watching, but almost long for. When a narrative can evoke a plethora of emotions such as sadness, hope, joy and anger, it cements itself as a movie I will constantly find myself going back to. That is exactly what Little Women achieved.
This film did an expert job encapturing the different lives and souls of each March sister, in a way that you could feel the full scope of their emotions, troubles and journeys through the years. A large part of this had to do with the way Greta Gerwig, the director, structured the narrative. Rather than following a linear path, she crafted a story that jumped forwards, backwards and weaved through time and people to maximize the poignancy. Every scene and moment was made much more impactful through the way she contrasted childhood and adulthood. We could clearly see how different events shaped each woman and how they have changed through the years. Laying out a story like this and still retaining its clarity and impact is extremely difficult, but Gerwig was able to do this and created a new perspective on the story.
The characterization and portrayal of the sisters is another standout element to this film. Each actress brought their own vivacity and depth to their role. Their stark differences are clearly contrasted multiple times throughout the film, but it is done without any note of degradation like in other adaptions. Instead, it reads as an acknowledgment of how different values and experiences can uniquely mold people. A fantastic way to sum up this idea is when Meg explains to Jo that “Just because my dreams are different than yours doesn’t mean they’re unimportant”. This theme was constant throughout the film, and I really think it made it much better. If there was only one sister I truly understood or empathized with, many pivotal moments in the film would lose their meaning. I adored how this film perfectly captured how complicated and frantic life is and the personalities of each sister enriched this idea.
Another theme explored in this film is the role of women in society. Each sister has their own values and opinions on this, particularly towards marriage. Meg married for love not wealth, Amy intends to marry rich and Jo never intends to marry. While you might have a preexisting idea of what is more just, more equal or right, the attitudes of these women and why exactly they make the choices they do reveal much about society at the time. For example, Amy’s opinion on marriage may seem superficial, but in a fiery discussion between her and Laurie, she provides insight into how marriage was an “economic proposition”-and how she could play it to her advantage. Feminist analysis like this are very integral to our social issues of today and having multiple female perspectives represented on the big screen was very powerful to see.
From a technical perspective, Little Women used the power of lighting, staging and blocking to bring out emotions and moods that might be otherwise subdued. In a video with Vanity Fair, Gerwig explains how they used specific lighting for the years of childhood (warm and soft lighting) versus the adult years (cold and harsh). This provided extra emotion and it helped reinforce the contrast between moments of their life. Additionally, the staging of props and furniture helped set the tone for many locations such as the March house and Lawrence house.
@LittleWomen is absolutely brilliant. We laughed, we cried. Our hearts were broken and filled with so much love and happiness at the same time. Please go see this film.
— jocelyn clark (@jocelynmclark) December 29, 2019
Another aspect of the film I loved was how Gerwig used movement and blocking to add warmth to different scenes and relationships. There are several moments where the March sisters flurry about somewhere in a disorganized fashion, yet you can practically feel their energy through the screen. This helps the audience be captured by their family and it’s one feeling that stayed with me even after I left the theatre. In more serious scenes blocking is also used to convey the distance between people, such as Laurie and Jo when he reveals Amy is his wife, or Jo and Bhaer when he is criticizing her writing. Gerwig very carefully places space between characters and have them move away or toward each other in key points of dialogue. Fine details like this are ones that elevated the film.
Overall, Little Women blew me away! The portrayal of each sister was so strong and emotive that I found myself wholly immersed in their lives. The March family grabs us with their warmth and takes us through the wild journey that is their lives almost as if we are a part of them. Little Women is a story that ultimately encourages you to find your own way.
Featured Image Credit To Little Women’s Official Instagram