A 14 year old girl comes of age 13th-century England in director Lena Dunham‘s “Catherine Called Birdy,” the big screen adaptation of Karen Cushman’s award-winning young adult novel. Dunham wrote the screenplay with a few tweaks from the original story, and her voice and humor (albeit toned down for a PG-13 audience) shine throughout the project. This cheeky crowd-pleaser is a delightful, witty feminist film for tweens.
The mischievous Lady Catherine (Bella Ramsey), affectionately known as Birdy, is the youngest child of Lord Rollo (Andrew Scott) and Lady Aislinn (Billie Piper). She’s a bit of a tomboy in her Medieval village of Stonebridge, and prefers playing in mud rather than taking baths and wearing dresses. The day after she gets her period for the first time, Birdy’s father takes it as a signal that it’s time to get his daughter married off to a wealthy man, especially since the family is in dire need of money. With a list of potential suitors, the clever teenager uses her wits to outsmart and scare off her unwanted would-be husbands.
Birdy is a strong character, and Ramsey embraces the role with a spirited defiance that’s irresistible. The young woman fights for what she believes in: in this case, her own independence, value, and ability to make her own life recessions. It’s a feminist message that parallels similar themes and challenges that women still face today. Society has changed in a lot of ways but in others, it’s stayed the same. In other words, Birdy feels like a timeless character who is living in the wrong time.
“Catherine Called Birdy” has a great message that encourages women of all ages to rebel against the sexist traditions that still exist in our male-dominated society. Dunham’s script feels current and speaks to the unique struggles that are part of adolescence. The film is lively, funny, and Ramsey’s performance as the fiery and quirky titular character makes this one a true delight.