Set in late 1970’s California, ’20th Century Women’ tells the story of several characters. The main narrative surrounds mother Dorothea, who recruits the help of two younger women to help raise her son. Nominated for an Oscar in the ‘Best Original Screenplay’ category, the film had this recognition to thank for gaining my interest in it.
The film boasts an impressive ensemble cast, made up of five key members. Annette Bening (Dorothea), Greta Gerwig (Abbie), Elle Fanning (Julie), Billy Crudup (William) & Lucas Jade Zumann (Jamie). There is a wonderful chemistry between all of the performers here. Each of them plays a pivotal role in the movie and use their acting ability well. I think I finally understand the fuss around Gerwig now as I thought she was excellent. However, it was youngster Lucas Jade Zumann who impressed me the most. Playing one of the more complex roles in film, he manages to convey the confusion and exploration of growing up brilliantly. With the chemistry that the cast have came a lot of humour, combined with the comedic script provided. Often the film will have you letting out deep belly laughs at the original comedy crafted. There is a whole mix of this injected into the film. Between one liners, physical comedy and whole scenes devoted to one gag, ’20th Century Women’ isn’t short on laughs. They never dominate the film though, rather they enhance the at times rather profound drama taking place.
Looking at the film in a very straightforward manner there isn’t a whole lot going on in the film. It is almost a narrative made up solely of different conversations. The content of these conversations is fascinating though. The amount of themes and subjects covered within the run time makes for a very interesting watch. As whilst the film may be labelled as a coming of age tale it is about far more than just this. The film talks about things that affect all ages; family, sex, relationships, illness, culture etc. This film is simply about life. However, what I found most ironic was that despite the title giving the impression that the story would focus on women, manhood is actually one of the major themes running through the film. I loved the attention that was given to this element and it was so engaging to have this subject put under scrutiny in such a thought provoking manner. It would be unfair to ignore that at times the pace of the film does suffer when the story is just conversation followed by conversation. Although there is always ample drama or stimulating dialogue not too far away to salvage any slight loss of attention. The score helps to combat this too. It’s simultaneously relaxing & engaging whilst also offering immersion and escapism, I loved it.
’20th Century Women’ is a rich piece of film-making. It’s the type of film that I would love to attend a discussion on where the various themes it looks at could be pondered over further. This dense narrative is kept even more entertaining through the delightful humour spread out through the film and the effective score employed here. The cast certainly deserve a lot of credit too, each conveying a different life but very much being part of one story. Writer and director Mike Mills has done a tremendous job of bringing his own vision to life which will no doubt entertain countless different audiences.
Rating – 8.5/10
Question: What is your favourite Greta Gerwig role?
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