That woman is Greta Gerwig for her latest film Lady Bird. The film stars Saoirse Ronan as the titular character, a high-school girl living in 2002 California, and her dreams of escaping her strict Catholic mother to the cultural-freedom of an Ivy League University.
The film is nominated for five Academy awards, including Best Director & Best Screenplay both for Gerwig. Personally, I will be surprised if she does not win for her magnificent, subtle and gripping screenplay.
Gerwig is undoubtedly a fine director, having shaped and honed her cino-eye over the last decade of acting and writing in many low-budget, often improvised indie hits. She has clearly used this experience to give her characters lines that feel organic and spur of the moment yet are deftly constructed. Gerwig was overlooked entirely at the BAFTAs, not nominated for any award herself, although Saoirse Ronan has justly been nominated for Best Actress. Lady Bird is at once funny, tough to watch at times and relatable.
The mother-daughter psychological warfare dynamic between Ronan and her mother, played by Laurie Metcalf, is in particular one of the most realistic I can ever remember seeing.
With Lady Bird, Gerwig has placed herself at the forefront of a new wave of female directors on the rise in cinema, including Niki Caro (The Zookeepers Wife), Patty Jenkins (Wonder Women), Reed Morano (I Think We’re Alone Now; a personal favourite) and up and coming British director of Belle and A United Kingdom; Amma Asante.
With the exception of Jenkins, all the films directed by these women and others are small-scale indie flicks. The issue is not (nor ever been) “Can women direct??” it is when will more studio executives take Warner Bros. lead and just hire them for their bigger projects.
These need not be high octane action block-busters like Wonder Women, they can be anything; big or small, thinkers or popcorn munchers. It doesn’t matter; if the opportunity is given there are many women out their who deserve the same chance to succeed or fail as any male director.
Despite this, the future for women in the film industry is brighter than it perhaps has ever been. More women are getting the chance to showcase their talents, and in all types of genres, from arthouse to blockbuster to horror and sci-fi.
What will help along the way is if journalists would just stop asking women “What’s it like being a female director”, as if they are some kind of freakish anomaly. These questions send out a harmful message to any young aspiring girl who wants to be a director.
Soon though, these questions will stop as more and more women receive their due praise for their work behind the camera, as well as in front of it.