Caution: may contain spoilers for “Ladybird.”
Mother-Daughter relationships are something. As a woman with a unique relationship with her mother, I hold close to my heart and am constantly nitpicking the representation this relationship has within Hollywood and the film industry. Up until recently, mother-daughter relationships have been viewed in one of two ways – neither of which I could relate to. The first and more classic way this relationship has been represented is when films focus heavily on the amount of contention between mother and daughter – not the love. There have been countless films where the mother-role is simply there to be “bad cop” or this unforgiving, relentless figure the main character is afraid of. On the opposite side of the spectrum, there’s also been representation where mothers and daughters are seen as best friends, with there being little to the true parenting that these relationships foster. This too large gap is where Ladybird comes in and makes viewers see an accurate portrayal of the mother-daughter dynamic that’s too often ignored in the film industry.
Within “Ladybird,” the story’s main focus may be on the life and struggles of Christine, who names herself Ladybird, but the true shining message lies within Ladybird and her mother’s relationship. Throughout the film, this duo goes through a whole host of angst-ridden yet relatable issues, from her mother’s discontent over Ladybird’s grand ideas of how life should be, like applying to NYC colleges although they’re too expensive, to how Ladybird constantly seeks her mother’s approval and the lack of that makes her question every decision she makes. This mother-daughter relationship is at its core dysfunctional but as the power-struggle between these two happens, the audience is still left with this overwhelming feeling of love and respect between the two characters.
Watching this film with my own mother, there were countless moments where we simply looked at one another with the same thought in our heads — that’s us. Specifically, there’s one moment in the film (spoiler alert) where Ladybird and her mother are shopping at their local thrift shop. There’s this annoyed back and forth about how Ladybird is acting and her mother’s passive-aggressive comments but the moment they find the dress of Ladybird’s dreams, everything is good in their world again and they just start looking at it with excitement. During this moment in the film, my mom and I just laughed because this moment had actually happened to us — we were fighting about something insignificant but at one point, it just faded away when we found something we were excited about, even if it was something small.
If “Ladybird” tells us anything about the future of film, with its groundbreaking portrayal of the mother-daughter dynamic, audiences can hope that the unrealistic representations of mothers and their daughters will no longer be held as the standard in Hollywood. Most mother-daughter connections are more similar to Christine and her mother, a complicated yet love-filled relationship, than the stereotypical best friend relationship that is constantly portrayed.