There's nothing little about this adaptation of the Louisa M Alcott's classic coming of age novel
FILM REVIEW: LITTLE WOMEN (U), THE LIGHT CINEMA, OUT NOW
STARRING: SAOIRSE RONAN, MERYL STREEP, LORNA DERN, EMMA WATSON, FLORENCE PUGH, ELIZA SCANLEN AND TIMOTHéE CHALAMET
RUNNING TIME 2HOURS 14MINS DIRECTOR: GRETA GERWIG
'Little Women' is not just a classic novel, but also a classic of the cinema with multiple versions including the one with Hollywood legend Katharine Hepburn.
So when it comes to doing a remake the challenge must always be to find that elusive fresh approach.
Greta Gerwig, writer and director, of the latest version currently showing at The Light Cinema in Wisbech, has managed just that.
While staying faithful to the ethos of Louise M Alcott's novel, Gerwig, has managed to breath new life into the tale of the March sisters, living in refined poverty in 1860s Massachusetts.
This is the story of four very different, but very devoted sisters: Meg (Emma Watson), Jo (Saoirse Ronan, Beth (Eliza Scanlen) and Amy (Florence Pugh) and their relationship with each other and the boy next door Theodore Lawrence, known as Laurie (Timothée Chalamet).
Meg is the homely one, looking for love, marriage and a family, Amy is the ambitious one looking to marry wealth but at the same time be a renowned artist. Beth is the quiet one, the one the others consider "the best of us" and Jo is the headstrong, determined one.
She has no ambition to marry but instead in a world dominated by men she wants to be a writer, having written stories and plays for her family all her life.
This version opens ahead of the book with Jo working as a teacher in New York, and enjoying the freedom living in a city brings. But concern for Beth's health sees her return home.
Mixing the present with the past the story unfolds with multiple references to 'Little Women' a term coined by the girls' father in his letters home from fighting in the Civil War, which ultimately becomes the title of Jo's masterpiece written for Beth - that's the new twist, the film and its vignettes on the sisters' lives become chapters in Jo's book making her the author and not Louisa M Alcott.
There is humour, there is pathos and there is a happy ending - just as the publisher of Jo's stories dictates when she tries to have her work printed.
"Women in stories should either wind up married or dead by the end," he tells Jo - re-enforcing the age-old 'women know your place' mantra.
The question of a woman’s independence in a society that is trying to be liberal, while sticking to the traditional, is there for all to see throughout the film, which is as much about women's rights and empowerment, as it is a story to be enjoyed.
The March sisters are all talented - Jo is a writer, Meg is an actress, Beth is a musician and Amy an artist, and they are encouraged in their talents by their radical mother (Lorna Dern). But Meg could never really go off and be an actress, and Amy's art however, good would never be enough. And as Jo finds being a published writer, is not an easy prospect for a woman.
In some ways this still holds true, women are still having to fight for recognition especially in Hollywood, where female directors are still not commonplace, so the story does have that modern relevance - especially in these days of the 'me too' movement and the gender pay gap.
But politics aside this film is beautifully filmed and set, the costumes are a delight, the cast shines - especially Saoirse Ronan whose version of Jo is perfection, and all in all its an absolutely charming watch - I loved it.
More by this authorSarah Cliss