lady bird 1

A Three-Word Text

I cannot tell you how much I wish things were different between us. That we got along and argued like normal people. I wish I did not recognize the pain in Lady Bird so intimately, that it struck so deeply in me as if I were watching my life play out on screen. However “nice” representation is, Lady Bird can be a haunting reminder of how difficult our relationship is. I wonder who else will watch this film and feel as if they’ve been stripped raw, that each proceeding scene stings.

But maybe I’m not sorry that it hurt so much watching the film. Perhaps I’m thankful that it does pulsate and burn the way it does. I knew during the scene in which Danny comes out to Lady Bird that this was a film of immense tenderness. Because as much sadness and frustration as there is in Lady Bird, there is joy and hope. Lady Bird has gone by that sobriquet throughout the whole film, but she changes her mind at a college party, finally in New York, introducing herself as Christine. She winds up at the hospital with alcohol poisoning. The next morning, she steps into church, overtaken by the majesty inside. She steps outside. She calls home. She wants to hear her mother’s voice.

After the film, I texted my mother. “I love you.”

Phuong, my best friend, sometimes tells me how strange it is to hear me talk about my mother, how odd it is that the way my mother and I relate to one another is so toxic. That she feels bad for me. I tell her I wish I could be saying that to someone else.

I am constantly wondering who I am in the eye of other people, and I assume I am disappointing them or alienating them. I don’t know whether I want to be someone for myself, or someone crafted to some degree in respect to others, and I wonder what it would be like being someone for my mother instead of spending as many years as I have arrogantly eschewing those expectations. And I wonder what my father would think.

Fly Away Home

I was predisposed to like Lady Bird, as I have been enamored of Gerwig’s work in Frances Ha and Mistress America for a while now. Frances Ha, in particular, is the film that I share with people I love. I think about that film’s ability in capturing uncertainty and loneliness. The mess in trying to figure out how to live as yourself and who that is. If Frances Ha is about regret and uncertainty about some of the things you’ve already done, and some of the ways in which you’ve become who you are, then Lady Bird is about the anxiety of the future and the person who you may become. They are mirror images of one another, and and I feel trapped between them, an infinity room of anxiety, regret, melancholy.

I did not tell my mother I was moving to New York. She found out about a month after I had been living there. I didn’t have plans to tell her I was queer, it came out in an argument in a car. I wish I had told her sooner, or I wish I felt that we had a relationship where I could have told her in the first place.

Would I have recognized this much in Gerwig’s work, in Lady Bird, had my father not died? Who would have taken me to school then? It wouldn’t have been the handyman whose facile paternal responsibilities were dropped in his lap, would it?

But maybe Greta Gerwig has saved my relationship with my mother.

Later that week, my mother and I spoke on the phone for two hours, the first time in several years. We talked about my job, politics, new movies, writing. We talked about her life in North Carolina, and mine in New York. She said she was proud of me. We said we missed each other. She said she was happy that I was happy in New York.

I want to take her to see the film. I hope she comes and visits.

Maybe getting mired in resentment and hatred kept me trapped. Maybe as we both let go and heal, I can finally fly away home.

I wanted to hear her voice. And she wanted to hear mine.

***

Lady Bird opens on November 3, 2017. You can read our review from the New York Film Festival right here.

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