Little Women review – a modern twist on the Louisa May Alcott classic

By Jan Kalina


Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of the very famous and very old novel (just kidding) by Louisa May Alcott differs at many instances from its source. Meaning, if you’ve seen any of the previous adaptations or read the novel, you’re still in for something different this time round.

This version of Little Women focuses on Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) as she reflects back and forth on her life with her sisters Meg (Emma Watson), Amy (Florence Pugh) and Beth (Eliza Scanlen).

Despite the fact that the film takes place during the American Civil War, the war and its repercussions are never palpable – it’s off-screen, invisible and never has any effect on the lives of the main characters. The effect that this has is the self-imposed independence of the characters, the fact that they have to take care of themselves, and each other.

Gerwig successfully manages to bring the novel into modern times so it still has something to say to the modern audience despite being a historical drama (romance drama).

Jo and most of the other characters, even if in search of romance, are driven by their independence and making their mark on the world – fulfilling their dreams. The idea that the end of a commercially successful story doesn’t have to result in marriage for the main female character.

The greatest difference from the source material is the meta-level narrative. What the audience sees on screen taking place is actually part of the novel of the same name written by Jo, based on their lives, as she is attempting to sell it to a publisher. And that results in the audience watching scenes that actually never took place, and are just written into the novel for commercial success. A clever commentary on the standard rom-com? You decide.

Every actress gets their time to shine here. Saoirse Ronan dives deep into Jo’s psyche and delivers one of her best performances to date, and is also up for a Best Actress Oscar. Florence Pugh, also nominated for her role as Best Supporting Actress, doesn’t seem to have much to do here, in my opinion. I feel she should have been nominated for last year’s feel-good wrestling drama Fighting with my Family if for anything.

Related: Color Out of Space and more at Future Gate Sci-Fi Film Festival this year

Little Women spans seven years and Gerwig tells this complex story completely out of chronology. The audience is given a hint with a title card at the start of the film, but that’s about it. It often jumps back and forth in time, rather confusingly. You’re required to catch up on their own which might appear to be a problem for some.

Greta Gerwig’s adaptation, and her follow-up to 2017’s award-winning Lady Bird, presents a unique way of adapting historical novels to present day. It’s timely and relevant to women today, and yet, still manages to keep the spirit of the novel.

Little Women is nominated for six Oscars this year, including Best Picture, and also stars Laura Dern, Timothée Chalamet, and Meryl Streep.

Now showing in Czech cinemas.

Photo: Falcon CZ

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