A striking directorial debut by Greta Gerwig, this tender, semi-autobiographical love letter to Gerwig's hometown explores the gulf between childhood and adulthood with touching, witty humor. Gerwig first gained acclaim for writing and acting in "mumblecore" indies; she seemed to find her own voice and persona in films like Damsels in Distress and Frances Ha. Now she brings that persona, fully formed, to the nuanced, wonderful Lady Bird. (It resembles Frances Ha, which she co-wrote, in many good ways.) And, standing in for the director on-screen, Oscar nominee Ronan perfectly adopts Gerwig's trademark sweet/scatterbrain delivery, sprinkling it with soul and humanity.
The movie is more about a time, a state of mind, and an emotional place than it is a story, and Gerwig allows scenes to wander off track in a delightful way. Even if they have nothing to do with Lady Bird, scenes sometimes follow secondary characters for no other reason than Gerwig likely found them interesting, sad, or funny. Not everything is explained. Special care is given to Lady Bird's mother, Marion, who's no-nonsense and borderline mean, but also truly loving. Metcalf gives a fine performance in the role. The overall use of music, cityscape images, and feisty rhythms round out a wonderfully personal, open-hearted movie.