Review and summary on the brilliant and Oscar winning film ‘Little Women’
(as well as character analysis)
Written and directed by Greta Gerwig, the extraordinary film stars a dazzling cast including Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Timothée Chalamet, Laura Dern and Meryl Streep. The heartwarming and poignant tale is solely based and inspired on Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel of the same name. Little Women embodies a coming of age narrative, within the primary themes of exploring and contrasting the significance of family, female empowerment, sisterhood, love and personal development.
From left to right, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Saoirse Ronan and Eliza Scanlen as the March sisters, who live mainly to delight (and sometimes to torment) one another.
The film chronicles the four March sisters, as they undergo and navigate their ambitions, aspirations and challenges during the 19th century in the outskirts of Massachusetts. The March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy all represent different aspects of womanhood as well as the different societal expectations oppressed towards women in the 19th century. The film is organised through a nonlinear narrative, thus, shuffling back and forth between past and present, thereby intensifying the characters development and evolution over time. Moreover, it engages the audience towards a deeper reflection of the coming of age theme.
Jo March, the hero protagonist, stands for inventiveness, ambitions and autonomy. Her confident character wishes to pursue a career as a writer, navigating the constraint male dominated working dynamic at the time. Jo March avoids marriage and parenthood, as she grapples with her own desires for both independence and love. She wishes to pursue a life of independence, self creation and true freedom. Contrastingly, Meg March, the eldest of the siblings, symbolises the conventional position of women as mothers and wives. She aspires to create a family, within a loving marriage and household. Her character depicts the social expectations that were placed on women in the 19th century, casting a strong emphasis on marriage and domesticity of the given time period. It is interesting to notice that, even given the enormous contrast between Meg’s personality and Jo’s ambitions, their way of life are both still valid, essentially demonstrating that both upbringings are valid and authentic.
Beth March, the middle sister, embodies the characteristics of kindness, empathy and selflessness. Her character mirrors the main themes of compassion, caring deeply for her family and community around her. Beth’s construction of character exemplifies the vulnerability and fragility of life, as she struggles with her personal illness throughout the course of the film. Her illness serves as a reminder of how precious youth is and the importance of cherishing our loved ones whilst we can.
Amy March, the youngest of the sisters, essentially had a spoiled and vain character, although, as she matured, she became more responsible and therefore more ambitious. Eventually pursuing her desire of becoming a successful artist in Europe. She is intensely aware of her family’s financial difficulties as well as the limited prospects for women at the time. Throughout the film, Amy is constantly reminded by her wealthy aunt that she is the only one who can “save the family”, as she describes Jo to be a lost cause and Meg to have married a poor man. Thus, this powerful presence reinforced her ambitions and motivations to achieve financial stability and independence for herself, illustrating the values of growth and the internal battle of managing and facing the cultural expectations and restrictions.
Overall, the themes of the film are eternal, appealing to audiences of all ages and backgrounds. Moreover, despite having had multiple adaptations to the screen in the past, Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women'' brings to light aspects of life that other adaptations were not able to capture. Thereby becoming is a cinematic classic that will captivate the audiences for centuries to come, given the brilliant performances, astonishing cinematography and complex plot.