Gerwig’s film adaptation is full of heart

Zoe Covey

Contributing Writer

I first heard about Little Women in another book, called The Mother Daughter Book Club, which was the first novel in a middle grade series about four different young girls reading classic literature together with their mothers. This was and is very much up my alley. Each one of the girls related to a different character in Little Women, and so began my interest in clear-cut personality tests and Louisa May Alcott.

Except I never read Little Women. I checked it out of my elementary school library for several weeks, at first because I wanted to read it, and then because I liked how large and impressive it was and the way adults looked at me when they saw me together with the hottest arm candy the 1869 press could supply.

What I would have learned if I had actually finished the book is that Little Women is a novel about the March family, who are living in Concord, Mass. during the American Civil War. Four young women named Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy live with their mother, Marmee, and Hannah, their maid and cook. Their father is away for most of the story, volunteering for the Union Army. The novel traces their lives through several years, marking several important comingof-age moments for women, both at that time and now. The girls grow up and get married, work toward careers and other, loftier aspirations and help the less fortunate. The main themes touted throughout the novel are being good to one another, loving one’s family and celebrating differences. Each March sister is unique, with her own talents, hobbies and personal idea of happiness. Many readers see themselves in one or more of the girls, making their stories feel all the more personal.

Greta Gerwig’s 2019 film adaptation finally filled fourth grade me in on what exactly all the buzz was about; not only by telling such a beautiful story with the amount of heart and care it deserved, but by making it one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen. Bright greens, blues and pinks make the film round with joy in some places, while a fogginess invades other sections of the story, signaling both that time has passed, and that it has not necessarily been kind to all of the March girls.

Gerwig’s adaptation differs from past film versions of Little Women by playing with the emotional high and low points of the story and splicing them together so that the audience can fully appreciate how they mirror each other, and how each new joy or hope or loss is still fresh, even if a similar sting or warmth has been felt before.

Some viewers may find this constant back and forth a bit confusing or distracting, and it definitely took me a minute to realize what was going on, but I think that Gerwig’s choice was ultimately a strong one. It distinguishes this version of the story from any told before and goes on to make the audience pay special attention to the complex feelings of the characters by making the backstory leading up to each moment all the fresher. The audience can more clearly see the characters taking past events into account as they move forward, and we cannot so easily excuse their actions as long ago choices because we see them through the eyes of people who have known them their whole lives.

If none of that convinced you, watch this movie for the costume design alone. Each character is outfitted as if the clothes were designed precisely to their specifications. Jo’s writing jacket is wonderful, Amy’s blue ball gown is spectacular (well, really all of her clothes are) and the costumes in Jo’s plays are whimsical and eye-catching.

It is everything that fourth grade me would have wanted and could have imagined from the offhand descriptions given by the four girls from The Mother Daugher Book Club, Emma, Megan, Jess and Cassidy about the book their mothers were forcing them to read. Knowing which “Sex and The City” character you are is so 2007. Knowing which March Girl you are is 1869 ’til forever.