Little Women (2019) is another adaptation of the classic novel written by Louisa May Alcott. Directed by Greta Gerwig (who shone in 2017 with Lady Bird), this film stars Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Eliza Scanlan, Timothée Chalamet and Laura Dern. Jo March (Ronan) wants to be a successful writer, but being a woman in the aftermath of the Civil War makes it hard for her to become successful whilst remaining in the mindset that she will not marry unlike the rest of her family.
This film is incredibly stunning to watch, due to the technical aspects of the film. The colour palette is light and airy, helping match the simple yet beautiful cinematography that this film adopts throughout to keep a tight focus on the characters and their actions. The costume designs are a clear stand-out here, with so many gorgeous dresses that you just want to wear yourself. The production design as well, particularly of the Laurence household and the huge focus of the piano to tie in the story cohesively.
There are some incredible performances here, as to be expected by the huge cast list. Saoirse Ronan is a brilliant choice for Jo, who makes you see her struggles in a situation that some women even struggle with in today’s society to have their creative voices heard. Florence Pugh proves once again why she is a rising star of this year, taking a character like Amy and managing to give her layers that can be hard to find in a Jo-dominated novel. Whilst not showcased as much here, I also still really enjoyed Emma Watson and Eliza Scanlan’s performance, which both had major importance to their story despite the lesser screen time.
There are some sequences here which are incredibly effective and beautifully done. The stand-out sequences are when the film focuses on the four sisters and their relationships, whether it is the good or the bad parts of it. This film is sold on the family dynamic of four sisters coping after the Civil War and the film is strongest when they are focusing on each of the subjects that they love and showing that passion. This could be when Amy is painting, or when the girls are putting on a performance, but Greta Gerwig’s love for the creative outlet really shines through in this film.
Despite the critical acclaim this film is getting, I found myself having a lot of problems with this film, particularly down to the editing style of this film. Gerwig opts to tell this classic story in moments of flashbacks and flashforwards. This is evident right from the start when the first sequence is of Jo selling her stories to a publication in New York. This constant back-and-forth narration style not only felt completely distracting to me, but led me to be unable to fully connect to any of the scenes before I was pulled out of that particular story and moment.
This version of the film lends itself more to an audience that has either read the original novel of this story or has grown up watching another adaptation of this film. If you are going in having never seen this story before, all of the plot points are jumbled up in the back-and-forth narration. This means that major moments that have a huge impact on the natural narrative and have a large build-up are announced way quicker than usual, leaving less time to hit that emotional punch that should happen and yet doesn’t.
I also had problems with the pacing of this film, particularly in the second half. This film has no idea when it actually wants to finish, leaving at least four moments in the last thirty minutes that could have been strong conclusions and yet continues to drag on and add several storyline arcs that I particularly never found myself invested in. Every five minutes added on to the ending just continued to feel forced and all of the moments felt like a completely different narrative focus point and tone, which just made me even more distracted from the impact of the film overall.
There are moments of pure excellence here and the actors help pull you into the intimate moments of this beautiful story. However, the editing stops this from becoming a great film due to the unbalanced pacing and the constant back-and-forth narration style this film decides to use. This is still a technically strong film and a good adaptation of the novel, but a personal style for me left me feeling cold to a majority of the characters and unable to fully invest into their story.
Have you had a chance to check out Little Women yet? Did you enjoy the editing style, or did it distract you like it did for me? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section and let’s have a discussion.