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3 Stars – Challenging

A mother once told me that it took more emotional energy and patience to get a teenage daughter and a mother to see eye-to-eye in a calm and peaceful manner than it took to negotiate world peace.  Depending on where you are in this family scenario, you will easily agree that it is an exhausting process to go from being the loving mother that can do no wrong at age eight, to the nasty witch-of-the-west by the time your daughter is fifteen.

Lady Bird is the self-chosen name of an emotionally temperamental teenager, Christine 'Lady Bird' McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), who is suffering through the process of growing up in a Sacramento, California Catholic High School.  She is not proud of her community, although she writes about it in an eloquent way.  She wants a boyfriend, but in a typically awkward teenage way has to learn the hard emotional lessons of life.  She is embarrassed by her parents’ lack of money or status, and of course, Marion (Laurie Metcalf) her mother doesn’t know ANYTHING about real life!

In many ways, everyone in this story is a caricature of real life in the suburbs.  The school nuns are well-intentioned and slightly out of touch.  The parents are self-depreciating and at a loss to how to deal with their daughter.  The boys she wants to date are all hiding behind their own emotional issues and are not mature enough to be present for her in the way that Glamour Magazine has led her to believe is real life.  Having one’s need met is not as easy as she thought it was supposed to be!

The answer to all of these life problems is to go out on your own – or, at least go off to college on your parent’s credit cards.  Here is where you slowly wake up to the fact that life isn’t any better than it was at home. 

The level of maturity of every parent is strongly influenced by their own upbringing, but it is also tempered by the company we keep.  Although Marion and Larry McPherson (Tracy Letts) have their daughter in a Catholic school, they don’t seem to have a gathering of friends to help shape their own growth.  Rather, they seem to play out the old adage: “Maturity comes from experience, and experience comes from the lack of maturity.”  When it comes to deepening their daughter’s spiritual life, or exploring her emotional or sexual longings, she is pretty much left on her own to understand life through pop-culture.

The performances of this mother and daughter duo has earned both Ronan and Metcalf Academy Award nominations, as well as a Best Picture nomination.  Her two boyfriends, Danny O'Neill and Kyle Scheible, played by Lucas Hedges and Timothée Chalamet, are both Academy Award nominees themselves for other films.  This story isn’t going to be inspiring or provide for a joyful ending, but it is a good reality check for parents facing the transition test with their teenager children.


  1. When you navigated your own teen years did you have a difficult time differentiating from your parents?  If so how do you understand that relational time now?
  2. The lack of a mature group of friends or a faith community with whom the family could interact left them finding their way alone.  What difference do you think this would have made?



Posted on February 12, 2018 and filed under 3 STARS, CHALLENGING.