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Catherine Known as Birdy overview: sharp interval comedy


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The interval drama with a distinctly fashionable sensibility has develop into a profitable subgenre in recent times, from Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette (2006) to Bridgerton (2020–). Lena Dunham’s Thirteenth-century-set comedy Catherine Known as Birdy, her long-gestating adaptation of Karen Cushman’s 1994 novel, adopts the same template to its stablemates – a feisty feminine heroine, various casting, wry comedy, using pop songs to underscore key narrative themes – however ultimately reveals itself to be operating relatively deeper.

The yr is 1290 and the titular protagonist is the 14-year-old daughter of Sir Rollo (a louche, scene-stealing Andrew Scott) and Girl Aislinn (Billie Piper), who’s used to dwelling in consolation in comparison with the peasants who inhabit the encircling Lincolnshire countryside. However the household are broke, and their solely possibility is to marry off their daughter Catherine (Bella Ramsey) for a sizeable dowry. A lot to her father’s chagrin, Catherine, nicknamed Birdy, is unwilling to conform, and units about dismantling each potential match.

Performed with attraction and gusto by Ramsey (who starred in Recreation of Thrones from 2016 to 2019), Birdy is strictly the kind of character you’d anticipate to attraction to author/director Dunham, whose work, together with Tiny Furnishings (2010) and HBO’s hit present Ladies (2012-2017), has persistently challenged patriarchal norms. From the second we first meet Catherine, who’s indulging in literal mud-slinging with the village adolescents (set to a languid model of Supergrass anthem ‘Alright’, the primary of many string-heavy covers that additionally embrace Piper’s personal ‘Honey to the Bee’), it’s clear she is, to paraphrase the character herself, definitely no girl.

Whereas a number of the dialogue is relatively on the nostril (at one level Catherine presents a bullet-point record of “issues a woman can not do”), Birdy’s fierce independence permits for some positive moments of observational comedy, corresponding to her unashamedly female-gazey response to a priory stuffed with strikingly scorching monks: “I’m ever so confused about what God is getting at right here.” Elsewhere, Dunham deftly explores the challenges of oncoming womanhood, the pains of first durations, first loves and first betrayals all given her figuring out remedy.

But it surely’s in its ultimate scenes, which differ from the novel, that Catherine Known as Birdy reveals its true coronary heart. As a twist within the narrative pushes Birdy’s conflicted father to the fore, Scott is commanding in shifting exchanges with first his working spouse after which his daughter, whom he comes to grasp simply as she is about to fly the nest. Right here, the movie finds explicit efficiency in reminding us that we are able to all discover energy in those that are prepared to combat our nook.

► Catherine Known as Birdy is in UK cinemas from tomorrow.

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