The key to the critical success of Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird lies in its solid and competent narrative structure. While somewhat familiar in its exploration of a coming-of-age narrative, the holistic nature of its central character sets the film apart from others in its class (Main Character Problem-Solving Style of
Lady Bird tells the story of a young girl who learns to accept the hometown she grew up in, and by extension—her mother (Main Character Resolve of
Changed, Main Character Solution of
Acceptance, and Story Goal of
Learning). Isolated and drawn to a world of culture that exists on the far side of the continent, Lady Bird rejects everything from affordable education to even her own name (Main Character Issue of
Attraction and Main Character Problem of
Non-acceptance). Eager for favorable reactions from her peers and worried of those from her mother, Bird seeks out a sense of belonging while secretly applying to far-off institutions (Main Character Focus of
Reaction and Main Character Direction of
Lady Bird’s mother, Marion, spends most of the time pointing out how much everything costs (Influence Character Problem of
Production). Locked in a mindset of scarcity, she wastes little time divulging her opinion of everyone and everything around her (Influence Character Throughline of
Mind and Influence Character Issue of
Appraisal). Still, the level of attention Marion pays to Lady Bird clues us in on why she acts this way and centers her greatest impact (Influence Character Concern of
Conscious). The nun’s revelation of Bird’s fondness for Sacramento really speaks of a nagging mother’s love for her daughter.
The opening scene—of mother and daughter checking out potential colleges while driving—encapsulates the entirety of their dysfunctional relationship (Relationship Story Throughline of
Psychology). With each trying to get the other to conceive of a different way of seeing things, mother and daughter come into conflict over an issue of incompatible wants (Relationship Story Concern of
Conceiving and Relationship Story Issue of
Deficiency). A mother’s hold over what her daughter can and can’t do ignites the conflict between them—Marion wants Bird to stay close and safe and that’s final (Relationship Story Catalyst of
Permission). With a mother driven to fear even the remote possibility of her daughter being exposed to violence, Bird finds no other alternative than to leap out of the moving car (Relationship Story Problem of
Possibility and Main Character Approach of
Bird isn’t the only one learning to define herself. Both temporary boyfriend Danny O’Neil (Lucas Hedges) and father Larry (Tracy Letts) struggle to reconcile themselves against a society that, for the most part, wants nothing of them (Overall Story Concern of
Learning and Overall Story Problem of
Non-acceptance). As part of the Overall Story Throughline perspective, Danny and Larry provide an objective account of playing by somebody else’s rules (Overall Story Issue of
Preconditions). When played in concert alongside Bird’s personal experience with imposed restrictions, the narrative elevates itself towards a level of grander importance.
Lady Bird is no accident. Through a careful application of subjective and objective conflicts carrying elements that resonate across both, the script grants a greater meaning—a reason for telling the story. Stop rejecting everything around you, and you can learn to accept where you come from—and the love you were given.
A beautiful and effective argument—and one not to be missed.