Magnificent March-ing

Review of Little Women at SIFF

Written by Teen Writer Audrey Brown and edited by Press Corps Teaching Artist Kathy Fennessy

Little women beach

Set in the 1860s, Greta Gerwig’s Little Women presents the lives of the March family during the Civil War. With the girls’ father away at war, the four sisters and their mother foster deep companionship and sisterhood. The film features the sisters’ lives, daily challenges, and character growth, and proves itself as essentially a coming-of-age fiction piece.

The production stars Saoirse Ronan as the strong-willed Jo, Emma Watson as the responsible Meg, Florence Pugh as the undaunted Amy, and Eliza Scanlen as the reserved Beth. With a skillful cast, alluring sets, and meaningful script, the film hosts a diverse range of personas, and Louisa May Alcott’s timeless novel is magically brought to life on the big screen.

Diligently scrawling, Jo is rarely pictured without an ink pen in hand. From the start, she is depicted as a strong and creative spirit, and gradually, her passions come to include her extra-familial relationships. Apart from the other sisters, Jo has no interest in a romantic life, and verbally expresses her strong views on the matter when confronted by those around her. While the film focuses on her aspirations to be a writer, the other sisters are shown with their own passions and challenges, as well. Art, music, and theater are only a few of the sisters’ interests, and by creating clubs, painting canvases, and acting in plays, the sisters unite with one another. As the film progresses, however, their carefree and youthful days are tested, and each sister encounters trials in their own way. For instance, the film often focuses on how the girls challenge traditional stereotypes for women during the time period. Throughout the course of the film, Jo, for example, develops a firmer stance on the injustices women face, and learns the importance of her own views. Another sister, Amy, is pushed into the position where she must decide between love or economic gain in marriage. The film follows closely as the sisters challenge stereotypes, pursue love, provide for their families, and fight sickness while ultimately enticing the audience with each scene.

Emma Watson and Kristina Byerley in Little Women (2019).

Written and directed by American actress and filmmaker, Greta Gerwig, Little Women moves at a fluent pace while transitioning between time periods. The film features distinct colors as well as weather changes to characterize different points in the sisters’ lives—weaving the plot together in a sophisticated manner. The storyline proves extremely interesting as it is not presented in chronological order, which stimulates both those familiar with the novel and those not. While developing events in an exciting and moving way, the film’s detailed costumes (designed by Oscar nominee Jacqueline Durran) help denote each scene from ballrooms to grassy hillsides, and the cast is seen in costumes ranging from delicate corsets to petticoats, as well as vibrant ball gowns. In particular, when Meg is invited to attend a dance in the city, she borrows a gorgeous pink gown from a friend. The usage of the gown flaunts a breathtaking costume while also developing Meg’s character further. Though Meg is not accustomed to a life where money is not a concern, the pink satin dress allows her to take on a role of elegance that is quite different from her everyday position. The film includes a variety of scenes where the sisters are seen ice skating, ballroom dancing, and playing on the beach, and brilliant costume choices attract attention, personalize the characters, and immerse the audience in the world of the Marches.

Ultimately, Little Women captures a tasteful depiction of the classic novel, and showcased the character development of the March family. Whether discovering passions, gaining the nerve to pursue a desire, or finding strength to fight obstacles, the characters grew up and realized the importance of family companionship. Paired with stunning cinematography, soundtrack, and costumes, the film proved a compelling journey.

Lead photo credit: Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, and Eliza Scanlen in Little Women (2019).

This article was written as part of the Film Criticism Workshop presented in collaboration with SIFF, on January 17-25, 2020. This workshop was taught by Press Corps Teaching Artist and film critic, Kathy Fennessy.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about other Press Corps programs including the Teen Editorial Staff or the TeenTix Newsroom, see HERE.

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