The Case for Best Picture: Little Women

Written by Niamh Muldowney

Looking at the Best Picture nominees for this year’s Academy Awards, all the films are filled with Big Stories. Be that an origin story for arguably the most iconic comic book villain, a 210-minute gangster epic from one of the most celebrated directors currently working, or a single shot war film about a messenger sent through No Man’s Land. But Little Women is different. In Little Women, Greta Gerwig revives a seemingly simple story about the lives of the March sisters in Civil War era Massachusetts, but this is no little story; the film shows how big, meaningful, and important these lives are. 

Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet star in Little Women.

As a fan of the book, I was initially apprehensive about the adaptation, but within moments of the room going dark and the film starting my fears were forgotten. The film is warm and vibrant, and welcomes you into its world like an old friend. It stays faithful to the source material- which is especially impressive considering how beloved Louis May Alcott’s original work is- and Gerwig takes all the heart and emotion and underlying social commentary of the original novel and amplifies it. The attention that Gerwig pays to Alcott’s life and work shines through in the film, especially when Jo (Saoirse Ronan) is painted as almost a stand in for the author. Between direction, writing, cinematography, performances and music, the world of Little Women is recreated in gorgeous detail; the film truly is the whole package

Not only does [Gerwig] know how to work with her actors to get nuanced, mature portrayals from them, she conducts the film like a symphony, bringing together all the individual elements into one great song.

When the announcements for this years Academy Award were released, one of the more cutting comments floating around was “Does the Academy think that Little Women directed itself?” and although Gerwig has been snubbed by her absence in the Best Director category, her direction is absolutely why the film was put forward for best picture. Not only does she know how to work with her actors to get nuanced, mature portrayals from them, she conducts the film like a symphony, bringing together all the individual elements into one great song. And with Kathryn Bigelow in 2010 finally opening the Best Picture award to women, it is far past time to recognise Gerwig for all that she has brought to the field with Little Women. 

The performances of the film are truly special, as evidenced by Saoirse Ronan picking up her fourth nomination for Best Actress, and Florence Pugh representing the film in the Best Supporting Actress. The entire cast is giving their all to bringing the fantasy of the film to life; Timothée Chalamet is equally dishevelled and energetic as Laurie, and Laura Dern in her honest portrayal of the March mother made me cry in more than one instance

The much-praised performances of the March Sisters in Little Women.

Last but not least, the score by Alexandre Desplat ties the film together. Desplat is no stranger to the Academy Awards, and has been nominated 11 times over the course of his career. In this way, with a practiced ear he brings joy and sorrow to the score. The opening theme is a delight to behold and perfectly captures the fun and friendship of the March sisters.

All in all, Gerwig and her team have absolutely succeeded in taking a much-beloved book and ushering it into the 21st century, and in my opinion Little Women, with its wonderfully realised ‘little’ story, should take home the Oscar for Best Picture.

The 92nd Academy Awards will take place this coming Sunday 9th of February.

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