Lady Bird: Dear Sacramento

It’s 8pm the day before Christmas, and I have just come home from running the last errands of the day. It’s raining a bit, enough for the streets to reflect the Christmas lights on the windowsills. It’d snowed a while ago, but by now it had mostly melted away – on one side of the mountains at least. The other side is protected by the shadow, so the snow stayed. It’s not fluffy snow, it’s hard and crisp: a blanket of glass splinters. A more optimistic and loving person would maybe call it a blanket of diamonds.

It was so quiet as I drove through our streets – my own Lady Bird moment. When I was little the curves seemed so random to me; they still do now, sometimes – but now that I’m driving myself, I love the movement. At least something is happening for a change.

A couple of years ago a Facebook post that said “Sillian is dead” went “viral”- I use “viral” cautiously here. However, the post got some engagement – enough that people organized a public panel in order to revive our little town. After all, the idea that nothing is really happening here is near blaspheme. Things are happening. Allegedly.

This grim and beautiful place, though, I love it nonetheless. I was so eager to finally leave, to expand my horizon, to finally have a view that isn’t limited by mountains or people or failing infrastructure or the lack of job opportunities.

I hate it here, and I love it here. That’s what I always said to my friends.

We often talked about this complexity of hating a place you love so much, or the abusive nature of loving something that brought you so much pain, so much insecurity; my depression originated here, my friends got bullied – people hate being bored, and everyone is bored here.

However, I often ended the hour-long conversations on the phone with “nobody would want to watch this.” I’ve often talked to my friends about wanting to make a film: a love letter to my little town in Tyrol.

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This was long before I’d even heard of Lady Bird, or Greta Gerwig for that matter. I  can remember that I saw Lady Bird solely for Saoirse Ronan; I’d heard some buzz about the movie – mostly on Twitter – where people would only describe it as “Greta Gerwig followed me throughout my teenage years with a camera and that’s Lady Bird”. It made me laugh, and I was excited for what that meant. It didn’t quite prepare me for what was to come:

Greta Gerwig followed me throughout my teenage years with a camera and that’s Lady Bird!

The first time I saw it I sat there with my mouth open, speechless. My thoughts went a hundred miles an hour, a mixture of “what the fuck” and “this is literally me”. I couldn’t quite pinpoint what exactly got me the most. Was it Lady Bird and her mum Marion yelling in the car? When I was about 16 I was in the car with my mum and my brother, and I asked them if they could call me Charlie. My hair is regularly dyed pink. My point is Greta Gerwig followed m-

Lady Bird’s relationship to Sacramento is something out of the ordinary, I find. Throughout the movie, she wants to escape it. We start with her visit to a college campus and end with her in front of a church in New York: where culture is, she says. Other places always seem to have more culture than the places we know so well. Visually, the film never denied Sacramento its culture. The beautiful shots of Lady Bird walking or driving through her hometown are fundamental. She’s surrounded by the beauty of it – it somewhat defines her beauty, too. She might feel out of place, but even her faded pink hair is perfectly accentuated by the backgrounds she passes. Whether it’s the green of the trees, or her favourite blue rich person house. These scenes are often quiet, too. It seems that she’s unconsciously taking in the houses and streets, the curves and corners, a bus stop, a street sign.

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Lady Bird claims over and over again that she wants to leave, that she hates this place – but it’s clear that it’s more complicated than that. It’s not unconscious. She pays attention.

“Don’t you think they’re the same thing? Love and attention?”

The film is exactly what it shows of Sacramento. It might seem like nothing is happening, ordinary and mundane, to her at least, but everything is happening – just like it is in the year we share with her. Her refusal to call herself Christine throughout the film until at last, when she’s away from home and recalling her life there. She appreciates it. It’s a good name. Her denial of Sacramento, of the wrong side of the tracks, until at last she can appreciate it. Sometimes we need a bit of distance to something, to a place, to people, to fully understand what it means to us, what they taught us, and who made us.

I couldn’t quite pinpoint what exactly got me the most about Lady Bird, but now I know that it’s all of it.

It has given me so much confidence with my own projects, I contribute a lot of my newly learned consistency and clarity with them to that film. The idea that a movie doesn’t have to have a big, unreal, simply metaphorical story to be good or entertaining, that people emphasize with authenticity most of all, no matter the setting surrounding the characters. People are invested in apparently ordinary, nearly mundane things and are at peace with that. Before, I’ve tried to go far and beyond with my own stories just so I wouldn’t bore people instead of focusing on the stories I wanted to tell. They never made any sense because my heart isn’t fully with them.

Lady Bird also taught me appreciation for the stepping stones of my life, and how I got to where I am today. After having seen the movie and being blown away by it, I made it my personal goal to watch as many of Gerwig’s previous movies as possible. A lot of these other films can be found within Lady Bird and vice versa, you can see Gerwig more clearly. From Greenberg to Frances Ha to Mistress America, they’re all inside Lady Bird. Not as an attempt to copy them, but by the appreciation and pride she has for these incredible movies. I’m clearly projecting, but I like to think that maybe those movies are to her what Lady Bird is to me: a certain clarity and confidence in the stories I want to tell and how I want to tell them.

I find Greta Gerwig extraordinary and so is Lady Bird. It is at its core a love letter to Sacramento, and people want to see that.