Review: How “Little Women” Made a Big Statement


Sofia Mongillo

In 1868, author Louisa May Alcott touched readers all around with her coming-of-age novel known by many today as a classic piece of literature. 2019’s “Little Women,” directed by Greta Gerwig, appeared on screens, having brought Alcott’s 19th century story back to life. Here, writer-director Gerwig recalls the narrative of Massachusetts-born sisters of the March family in a relatable, refreshing yet authentic way.

Set during the Civil War, the March family is made up of four sisters drastically different in personality who are all struggling to grow into adulthood in their own ways during a time of luxuries and riches for some and poverty and desperation for others. While their father is away serving the country as a chaplain in the war, the four help their mother at home and enjoy their time together. Though they vary in age, the siblings all face issues ranging from social anxiety to romantic troubles to simply trying to find their place in a world where societal expectations are high. This is especially difficult in an era in which women are viewed as having one main purpose: to find a decent man and marry well. However, one of the many brilliant aspects highlighted in the film is the March girls’ refusal to support the toxic patriarchy that dominates over most.

The story’s protagonist, Jo March, played by Saoirse Ronan, is an attribute that is likely the greatest detail in the film. While it is clear her sisters Meg, Amy and Beth strive for some form of independence, Jo carries herself with a sense of liberation and a thirst for freedom practically unheard of at the time. Rather than making her end goal marriage, like many encourage her to, she devotes her time to writing fictional stories and dreams of one day being a famous writer, which drives a large portion of the plot. The fact that a majority of the main characters in the story are not only females, but self-sufficient females, is a powerful statement in itself and it is undeniably inspiring for all who get to witness it. Though some are interested in finding a suitor while others are not, they each have individual passions they are not afraid to pursue with full force; a factor separate from their love lives. Jo March unapologetically creates a path of her own, knocking all gender roles down.

Known widely for her role in “Lady Bird,” Ronan’s part in “Little Women” is among the various impeccable choices made in casting for the film. The Irish-American 25-year-old portrays spontaneous bookworm Jo in the most candid, real way possible scene by scene through a passionate performance that makes audiences feel as if they are right there next to her. It is clear the actress fully immersed herself into the persona of Jo March. Alongside Ronan is up-and-coming actor Timothée Chalamet playing the March’s wealthy neighbor Theodore Laurence, whom the girls call Laurie. Playing another of the leading roles, Chalamet represents doe-eyed Laurie to a tee. These two, among various other actors, such as Florence Pugh, Emma Watson and Meryl Streep make it seem as though there is nobody else who could have performed the roles better.

Another distinct aspect Gerwig and producers made sure to include is the sequence in which viewers see the events taking place. Rather than witnessing the happenings in chronological order, the audience is taken back and forth between the past and present so they can make sense of how characters got to where they are now. This background information sets up a precise timeline to put all of the events into a perspective that is easy to follow, unlike in many other films that leave viewers confused.

Although the movie covers some fairly grave topics, lively scenes and a great script leave room for laughter and plenty of feel-good moments. In other words, “Little Women” shows the lives of the March girls and those close to them the way it was, truthfully and unfiltered. Those watching get the opportunity to grow and experience their upbringing during a difficult time right by their side. This masterpiece of a film will surely take a special place in the hearts of all of its viewers the way it has in mine.