JOE ALWYN and BELLA RAMSEY star in CATHERINE CALLED BIRDY Photo: ALEX BAILEY © AMAZON CONTENT SERVICES LLC
Catherine Called Birdy is a coming-of-age story focused on a young woman navigating mid-13th century life in England. Birdy (Bella Ramsey) enjoys spending her time getting into whatever mischief she can. This includes wrestling in the mud, eavesdropping, and longing for swordplay. Her mother Lady Aislinn (Billy Piper) enjoys Birdy’s whimsy and has no desire to stamp it out. On the contrary, Lord Rollo (Andrew Scott), feels responsible for wedding off his daughter into a favorable marriage. “Favorable” in this case equates to “anyone with money,” as he has accumulated a considerable debt. With her desire to live the life she wants Birdy concocts various schemes to stay vibrant and single.
What works in Catherine Called Birdy is the script, heart, and humor. Ramsey is simply phenomenal as Birdy. Her unbridled energy and wit carry the film—she will have audiences laughing out and rooting for her from the opening credits to the final shot. Director and writer Lena Dunham (Girls) crafts some uproarious moments while also grounding the film in some harsh realities about what it was like to be a non-conforming girl during this age. Dunham tactfully explores the difficulties, mysteries, and absurdities of the time like an orchestral conductor who has refined every note. It would not be surprising to see Dunham nominated for a Best Adapted Screenplay Academy Award.
Dunham makes some creative decisions in Catherine Called Birdy that might not be appreciated across all audiences. For example, while the film is historical fiction, Dunham opts to use anachronistic modern music throughout to set the tone. Some individuals may find this distracting and breaking of the 13th century setting. Furthermore, Dunham changes some key plot points from the book in terms of character relationships and development. Without mentioning any spoilers, one of these modifications is more historically accurate but has the potential of making people feel uncomfortable due to its taboo nature.
Catherine Called Birdy is a delightful, positive film. Its central message is that of encouraging empowerment for all people, especially young women, to fight for their individuality; to cherish the joys of life; to laugh; to never succumb to societal norms; to ask “why?” Catherine Called Birdy may be one of the best hidden gems of the year and comes with the highest possible recommendation.
Audiences can find Catherine Called Birdy on Amazon Prime starting October 7th, 2022, and in theaters for a limited time.