Little Women

“My child, the troubles and temptations of your life are beginning and may be many; but you can overcome and outlive them all if you learn to feel the strength and tenderness of your Heavenly Father as you do that of your earthly one.”

As Theodore “Laurie” Laurence puts his hands in his pockets and walks away from the chaos of the March house, its warm window glows bright over his shoulder, reminding him that the joyful family he saw was not an apparition. 

Directed by Greta Gerwig, Little Women (2019) follows the story of the well-known novel written by Louisa May Alcott about the four March sisters. Meg (Emma Watson), Jo (Saoirse Ronan), Beth (Eliza Scanlen), and Amy (Florence Pugh), guided by the lovely Marmee (Laura Dern), come of age and grow into womanhood during the time of the American civil war. 

From the beginning, Gerwig’s rendition of the popular story—now with four separate movie adaptations—creates a powerful focus on the family. The narrative follows Jo as she travels home to see Beth, who is gravely ill. As the narrative blends Jo’s childhood memories with her present homecoming, the past shines with the color and warmth of her childhood—a warmth that is painfully missing from the cold color palette of the present. Lost love, their family’s aging, and Beth’s sickness loom large over the lives of the March family and their acquaintances. Despite the sadness of growing up, the unity of the family shines through the hard times. For the March sisters, the strength of their family provides stability and comfort. In Jo’s words, “Life’s too short to be angry at one’s sisters.” In the same way, the family also offers a genuine community for their lonely acquaintances—namely Laurie, his tutor, and his grandfather. Beth’s piano playing brings solace to the huge mansion of Laurie’s grandfather, while Laurie finds a complete family in the Marches. This hospitality reflects the communal power that a joyful family can have, even as time passes and life grows inevitably harder.

Gerwig uses the power of memory to beautifully depict the joys and challenges of family life, not in the abstract, but in the particular lives of four sisters trying to grow in love for and responsibility to the world around them. In a movie that could have simply retold a well-loved story, Gerwig instead insightfully reveals, through memory and color, the long-lasting power that family life has on the world of a child. Little Women is a delightful film. Watch it and give your mother a hug.

Dietrich Balsbaugh is a senior studying mathematics and English.