Coming of Age with CATHERINE CALLED BIRDY
Based on the book by Karen Cushman and directed and adapted for the screen by Lena Dunham, Catherine Called Birdy is a coming-of-age film set in the thirteenth century. In this fictional tale, we follow the story of Lady Catherine (Bella Ramsey) – nicknamed as Birdy – who is on the verge of womanhood.
14 year old Birdy lives with her family in a Stonebridge Manor in Lincolnshire, where her lack of ladylike behavior draws disapproval from her parents and peers. When her periods start, she hides it, fearing that her father Lord Rollo (Andrew Scott) will force her into marriage to secure their family's finances.
Despite her father's insistence to arrange marriages for her, Birdy manages to put off most of her suitors with her unconventional behavior. As she navigates her journey towards womanhood, Birdy faces numerous challenges, including societal expectations, gender roles, and the constraints of her class. Through it all, she learns the importance of staying true to herself and following her heart, even when it means going against the norms of her time.
Bella Ramsey delivers a captivating performance as the sharp-witted and unconventional Lady Catherine. Her portrayal of Birdy brings a sense of mirth and wit to the character, making her both relatable and endearing to the audience. Ramsey's ability to convey the complexities of Birdy's emotions, as she struggles with societal expectations and her feelings for the peasant boy, is truly impressive.
The supporting cast of Catherine Called Birdy also impresses, with many familiar actors bringing their A-game to their respective roles, including Dean Charles-Chapman as Robert, Billie Piper as Lady Aislinn and Sophie Okonedo as Ethelfritha Rose Splinter of Devon. From Birdy's parents to her suitors and friends, each character is brought to life with nuance and depth. Their performances add layers to the story, making it a rich and engaging experience for viewers. The cast is perfectly suited to their respective roles, with each actor bringing their own unique style and energy to the film.
Catherine Called Birdy is both sharp and funny, providing a refreshing and witty take on the coming-of-age genre. The script also features moments of quiet potency, exploring the complexities of societal norms and expectations during the thirteenth century.
The cinematography by Director of Photography Laurie Rose in Catherine Called Birdy is excellent, showcasing the beauty of the Lincolnshire countryside and the richly detailed settings of the film. The use of natural light and the film's muted color palette add to the overall atmosphere of the piece, creating a sense of authenticity and realism.
The set and costume design in Catherine Called Birdy is vibrant and colorful, perhaps a bit much for the thirteenth century. There are quite a few anachronisms - the use of a telescope which had not yet been invented, or the reference to a new year in January when the new year in England began on March 25th in that century. Viewers who can forgive anachronisms and enjoy A Knight’s Tale or the series Anne with an E will find Catherine Called Birdy to be equally amusing and entertaining.
Catherine Called Birdy is a delightful and lively tale of self-discovery, love, and the pursuit of happiness in a time of rigid societal structures and expectations. The issues Birdy deals with may be of a different era but one can still generally understand the way she feels in this coming-of-age story.