‘Little Women’ empowers women brilliantly

I wouldn’t be surprised if I watched more movies during winter break than I had during the previous six months. I watched “Marriage Story” alone, and late. I probably cried my bodyweight in tears. Soon after, I watched “Frozen II,” and while I wasn’t outwardly changed, I was struck emotionally by its touching commentary on depression and self-care. (“The life I knew is over, the lights are out / Hello, darkness, I’m ready to succumb / This grief has a gravity, it pulls me down”). I guess I hadn’t exactly expected a psychological commentary from Disney, but there it was, sung by America’s favorite twin princesses. Some time later, I watched the Korean thriller “Parasite” with absolutely no prior knowledge of its plot or character development. And it resurrected my childhood nightmares.

So, in short: I watched a lot of emotionally cathartic (but not relieving by any means) movies. Then I watched “Little Women.”

I’m not the most devout film buff, but I am able to identify works of art that are indelible and worth holding tight. “Little Women” is one of those works.

Before watching, I knew that I was fond of Greta Gerwig’s directing style. In “Lady Bird,” Gerwig’s plain portrayal of the ebbs and flows of adolescence is genuine. Between comedy and solemnity, she maintains a refreshingly accurate narrative. This same authenticity permeates “Little Women,” despite 100 years and 3000 miles of difference.

What I find most magnetic about “Little Women” –and a product of Gerwig’s brilliant direction– is the way in which the film reveals raw humanity in its characters. In each of the Little Women, I recognized my own mannerisms and relationships. And I know I’m not the only one who realized this; I’m sure other young women have seen pieces of themselves, too, in Jo’s impulsivity, Amy’s loneliness, Beth’s reticence, Meg’s envy. The characters aren’t perfect, but they’re not tragically plagued by imperfection. Instead, their imperfection is what reveals their humanity. The four young women who allow us to vicariously recognize our brokenness ultimately help us to understand how we might heal.

Another of the film’s capitating qualities is its oscillation between past and present, which Gerwig differentiates with warm tones and cool tones. She is able to convey such profound emotion through inanimate features: geography, weather, costume. Between its depictions of bitter winter and dreamy summer, the film’s romanticism vividly illustrates the contrast between childhood and adult difficulties.

And the writing is incredible, whether aside or soliloquy. One minute specifically cemented my affection for the movie. Nearing the end of the film, Jo (Saoirse Ronan) opines to her mother Marmee (Laura Dern) that “Women have minds and they have souls as well as just hearts. They’ve got ambition and they’ve got talent as well as just beauty. I am so sick of people saying that love is just all a woman is fit for. I’m so sick of it! But—I am so lonely.” It was heart-wrenching to hear Jo articulate what crosses the minds of many young women: how can we act unselfishly without “annihilating ourselves”? Even the break in Ronan’s voice is worthy of accolade.

Even though “Little Women” brought me to tears, its potent videography and script instilled in me a genuine sense of empowerment. The film is indelible, and it’s one that I hope young women and men will keep close to their hearts as I do.