Indie Spotlight: 20th Century Women (15)

Kate Dunkerton takes a look back at 2016's coming-of-age gem

Kate Dunkerton
24th July 2020
Mike Mills’ 2016 drama 20th Century Women is an underrated gem that needs more recognition. After wanting something new to watch, I finally got around to watching this after missing out on it whilst it was in cinemas. A semi-autobiographical film, Mills manages to give the coming-of-age tale a unique flare.

Set in Southern California in 1979, the film follows multiple women as they all come together under the same storyline. Centring around single mother Dorothea (Annette Bening) and her teenage son Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann), she enlists the help of two young women living in their boarding house to help teach Jamie moral life lessons in becoming a man. The first of which is Abbie (Greta Gerwig), a photographer and feminist recovering from cervical cancer. The second is Julie (Elle Fanning), Jamie’s best friend and unrequited crush, known for her promiscuity and unhappy home life, which she escapes from under Dorothea’s roof.

As the focus shifts from Dorothea and Jamie to Abbie and Julie, their stories are told through individual character arcs, giving the audience the chance to understand and get to know the characters in a way that feels personal. Despite seeking Abbie’s help in a desperate bid to develop a connection with Jamie, Abbie’s methods are soon criticised by Dorothea after giving Jamie books on gender inequality and feminism. By focusing all her attention on raising Jamie to be a good man, Dorothea soon realises she needs to experience life in the modern world.

20th Century Women is a celebration of female influence and friendship

With quick-witted dialogue and standout performances from the cast, 20th Century Women is a celebration of female influence and friendship. As the lead, Annette Bening is given her chance to shine as Dorothea, simultaneously portraying her as an independent, yet vulnerable woman.

I particularly enjoyed Greta Gerwig’s performance as Abbie. Knowing her best as a director and screenwriter, this was the first time I’d seen Gerwig act and I wasn’t disappointed. Although I knew Gerwig was an actress prior to becoming an acclaimed director, I had no idea she was this talented at acting (and dancing), with her character being the most likeable of the cast.

20th Century Women is a quirky indie flick in a good way, making it a memorable film I have no doubt I’ll revisit very soon.

Featured image: IMDb

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