Articles across the internet tout Greta Gerwig’s Little Women as a wonderful film. Gen X, millennials, and boomers alike express joy at the tale. But what makes this rendition so appealing to audiences across generations? Is it the storytelling, acting, directing, or all of these combined? Something in the way the film uses these elements to engage all of the senses brings the story to life in a new way.

Storytelling In Little Women

Gerwig departs from the linear narrative that all of the previous Little Women adaptations utilized. Telling the story from Jo’s point of view embodies Louisa May Alcott’s voice in the novel. But beginning with Jo trying to make her way in New York hints at the brilliance with which Gerwig remakes the classic. While innovative, Gerwig uses classic scenes to ground the adaptation. So many of the lines in flashback scenes are directly pulled from the chapters of the novel. This gives hardline fans mementos of the story they love within a modern take.

Saoirse Ronan as Jo March in Little Women
Credit: Columbia Pictures 2019

Gerwig’s unique storytelling works for fans both new and old. Though nontraditional, it does not detract from a first-time viewer’s understanding of the story. She doesn’t coddle viewers by explaining the time and setting of every scene. However, clear visual cues help to separate the past and the present while keeping the story flowing. This gives moviegoers a sense of respect and confidence that Gerwig has the ability to tell them the story in a complex and meaningful way.

Cinematography

The colors and visual storytelling that Gerwig and director of photography Yorick Le Saux use in the film keep viewers engaged. The scenes from Jo’s past have a slight sepia tone that brings a nostalgic feel to the vignettes.

Saoirse Ronan as Jo March lying on the floor in Little Women
Credit: Columbia Pictures 2019

Further separating the past from the present is an air of levity that pervades the sister’s early years. The faster movement and flow of the camera angles mimic the vivacity and joy of youth untouched the cares of life. Le Saux uses the camera to invite us into the lives and dreams of the little March women.

Acting In Little Women

The acting in Little Women is nothing short of phenomenal. Recognizable actors disappear into iconic roles while inserting a fresh look at the characters as well. Even though the actresses portraying the sisters hail from England, Ireland, and Australia, they mesh together as a believable family unit. Their chemistry skillfully displays the frustration, love, jealousy, and loyalty that most families face daily.

Saoirse Ronan As Jo

Saoirse Ronan embodies Jo’s gangly and brusque demeanor without detracting from her wild beauty and charm. Ronan also plays the romantic issues well. Her love of liberty and wisdom in staying single does not overshadow her desire for companionship. As the narrative lens for the film, Ronan puts the full spectrum of her acting skills on display. The nuances of her character’s growth throughout the film keep filmgoers engaged and invested as the sisters navigate life.

Emma Watson As Meg

Emma Watson’s prominent feminist activism and roles as cultural dissidents seem dichotomous with the Meg March that loves pretty things, parties, and longs for marriage. However, this subversion emphasizes the need for feminine feminists. Too often, society paints feminists as gender-neutral tomboys who want to abolish gender. However, women can love the institution of marriage, have children, and desire beauty while still deserving the rights and equality that feminists call for. As Meg tells Jo:

Just because my dreams are different than yours, it doesn’t mean they’re unimportant.

Meg March

Florence Pugh As Amy

Florence Pugh takes Amy March off the pages of the novel and brings her to life in a true and humanizing way. The character Amy can be patronizing and almost an antagonist for the heroine, Jo. But Pugh takes the arrogance and selfishness of Amy and helps viewers see her in themselves.

Florence Pugh and Timothée Chalamet in Little Women
Credit: Columbia Pictures 2019

Furthermore, the character’s growth from bratty youngest sister to aspiring artist to a disillusioned young woman makes us realize that life is hard, and sometimes we should let ourselves enjoy childish joys for as long as possible.

The Supporting Cast

The rest of the supporting cast compliments and enhances the main characters and story. Though the film is star-studded, one is not tempted to only see the actor but rather the story of the person they play. Gerwig’s casting choices and ability to help direct such major talent further bind the film into the hearts of viewers.

Music

Nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Original Score, Little Women‘s composer Alexandre Desplat weaves original music with classical pieces to compliment Gerwig’s style. The baroque feeling of the songs contributes to the intimacy of the sisters’ childhood. Recorded with a chamber orchestra and piano, the music does not overpower the simplicity of the March’s lives. Furthermore, the prominence of the piano throughout the film keeps the “musical one” of the family in mind as well. Though she is quiet and shy, Beth’s musical virtuosity and courageous heart boost the family’s spirits in the good times and bad.

Little Women’s Flaws

So what are the film’s drawbacks? Has Greta Gerwig created the perfect piece of historical drama? Perhaps Gerwig realizes that our culture has difficulty accepting blatantly progressive ideas. However, the film is almost too globally liked. Must the feminist message of independence and individuality be tucked into an easily digestible feel-good film for masses to agree on its truth? The nostalgia of the film and sweet messages draped over a push for viewers to understand that women are not just helpers and pretty things.

Emma Watson as Meg March and James Norton as John Brooke in Little Women
Credit: Columbia Pictures 2019

[Women] have minds, and they have souls, as well as just hearts. They’ve got ambition, and they’ve got talent, as well as just beauty.

Jo March

Little Women’s Relatability

Overall, one of the main reasons everyone enjoys Little Women is how relatable the film is. Everyone has family members that annoy them to no end, as Amy does to Jo. Most of us have experienced the loss of someone or something pure and dear to our hearts. Everyone has experienced the loneliness and lack of direction that Jo expresses throughout her journey.

Gerwig finds these moments of life that define and shape us and shows viewers their beauty. Whether you are a teen or a grandparent, Little Women speaks to our common desire for love, success, and joy. The remake has become an instant classic that redefines what it means for us to follow our dreams.