‘Little Women’ Review: A Fresh Take on a Classic Story

Story by Miranda Ingram

Greta Gerwig’s 2019 “Little Women” is a fiercely heartfelt adaptation of the 1868 novel by Lousia May Alcott. Although over the years the story has been adapted into multiple movies and even a musical, it somehow feels fresh and different in this most recent remake. 

Gerwig, the writer and director, is no stranger to female-driven coming-of-age stories, having made her solo directorial debut with award-winning “Ladybird” in 2017. This experience is evident in her powerful depiction of the March sisters as women of action, who are not to be underestimated by anyone. 

“Little Women” takes place in Civil War-era America and centers on four sisters: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March. The story spans their childhood into their early adult years as each girl balances their goals and dreams with their responsibilities to their family and to each other. Endearing vignettes of childhood mischief are dispersed between scenes depicting struggle, loss and strength. 

One technique Gerwig uses that makes the movie unique when compared to other adaptations is how she plays with the chronology of the girls’ lives. The film does not follow a linear path; instead, it begins during the latter half of the story and the audience is filled in on what has already transpired through a series of flashbacks. This unconventional approach offers a clever, new perspective on the “Little Women” story and heightens the emotional content of the film. Moments full of joy are contrasted with sorrowful or heartbreaking scenes that happen at the same location, but during different parts of the timeline. This technique allows Gerwig’s creative prowess to shine through and magnify the story’s impact. 

The star-studded cast only adds to Gerwig’s compelling screenplay and vision. With actresses such as Saorise Ronan, Emma Watson, Laura Dern and Meryl Streep, nearly every member of the cast has received multiple accolades. These women, as well as the rest of the cast, use their expertise and maturity to bring the story to life. Watching them interact and play off of each other to create a believable family is beautiful and one of my favorite aspects of the movie. 

Jo March, the second oldest daughter and main protagonist of the film, is just as relevant today as when Alcott first published her book. Played by Saorise Ronan, Jo struggles with her identity as a woman in a society where a female’s predominant job is to marry well and take care of the house. Her efforts to break away from this restrictive mold and chase her ambitions are challenged throughout the story by both men and women who fail to see her true potential. 

This story is not unique to the 1800s; many people today face bias or backlash for the way they live their lives. However, Jo’s example gives us all hope for the future. The way Jo recovers from every setback and difficulty she encounters makes her story of passion and perseverance all the more inspiring. 

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