Released on Boxing Day, Little Women is a film adaptation of a book by Louisa May Alcott published in the 19th century. Set at around the same time, the story follows the four March sisters as they navigate their way through life, somewhat inspired by the authors own family life. The original books were told in two parts, the first when the girls were children and the second some years later when they can be considered adults. Rather than following this chronological order the film bounces back and forth between the two narratives in a very cleverly choreographed manner. Greta Gerwig, of Ladybird fame, has done an excellent job with the source material in my opinion, and the blending of the two timelines is seamless and not at all jarring, with some fantastic parallels in the sequences with scenes in the past and present reflecting each other both beautifully and devastatingly.
The casting was truly spot on, the four sisters worked very well together and were great embodiments of the characters; Saoirse Ronan, as Jo, is slowly rising to prominence in the film industry and you can really see why, and Emma Watson as the eldest Meg proves once again her classic talent and grace beyond Hermione. The standout star for me though was almost certainly Florence Pugh who played Amy. 2019 has been an excellent year for the actor, who had her “breakthrough” with Fighting with my Family and the critically acclaimed horror Midsommar earlier this year. Her portrayal of Amy is arguably the best thing about the film; at many points in the narrative Amy was only 12 years old, and the 24-year-old actress played her so fantastically well that I forgot that she wasn’t actually a child. Her mannerisms, the way she held herself and her voice led to a fantastic performance that really contrasted with her grown up scenes, where she held herself with the grace and poise of a woman in high society. This contrast and clear distinction as her character grows aside, she also delivered a portrayal of Amy that viewers don’t hate. In the story, Amy has some occasional bratty moments; being the youngest she can often come across as petulant and irritating, or sometimes cruel as when she destroyed Jo’s manuscript as revenge for not inviting her to a party. Pugh and Gerwig really found the character, and rather than a spoilt girl who comes second to her sister Jo, she is a woman who isn’t sure of her place in the world, who makes mistakes but works up to them. I’m not sure how Academy Awards nominations work, but if I was important enough to have a say there would definitely be an Oscar in the works for Florence Pugh.
Admittedly what I most liked about this film was how it showed family life. As someone with a large family myself, I enjoyed the scenes when the girls were younger, all piled in the same room bickering and talking over one another. Whilst not necessarily reflecting my own family dynamic, it was lovely to see, and their relationships felt very genuine. Little Women on the whole feels very authentic, and you can feel the autobiographical nature of the piece in Alcott’s writing. I feel like I have been every one of the sisters at some point in my life, and Little Women feels like a film that viewers can relate to and see themselves in and on some levels live vicariously through.
Aesthetically, this film was divine. The cinematography and camera work did wonders to show off the gorgeous scenery and the beautiful costumes. Every fantasy I have ever had about living inside a historical drama were realised in this film. The dresses and costumes of the four sisters were unbelievably stunning, and I found myself wishing I owned each one as they appeared on the screen. One detail I also appreciated about the clothes was how Laurie and Jo seemed to share a wardrobe, and wore similar shirts and waistcoats throughout, which I thought was a lovely touch to highlight their relationship.
I very much enjoyed this film, and it is definitely one of my favourites of the year. I’m also excited that this film appears to be the first of many adaptations of historical classics hitting the big screen, with Austen’s Emma, Dickens’ David Copperfield and even The Secret Garden coming to cinemas this year. I for one am delighted about the prospect of these colourful and seemingly charming adaptations. 2020 may be the year of the classic, and if Little Women is anything to go by, I cannot wait to see how this year of film unfolds.