‘Catherine Called Birdy’ is a medieval delight

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Passion projects can go in all sorts of wrong directions, but Lena Dunham had a triumph in ‘Catherine Called Birdy’, a medieval coming-of-age story that’s part of Mel Brooks’ ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ and with all joy.

The film is based on a book she discovered when she was 10 years old, while in fourth grade in New York. She found a kind of comfort and coziness in Karen Cushman’s novel Newbery Honor about a 14-year-old living in 1290 in the English countryside. Nothing like historical fiction to fire up the imagination of a young girl who feels disconnected from her own moment. As she grew older, Dunham found herself in a relationship with more than Lady Catherine – she befriended the mother, the nurse, the friend and the older widow. Her adaptation, which she wrote and directed, manages to wrap all that childish naivety and hard-earned wisdom into a smart and entertaining package that’s both modern and nostalgic and deftly evokes that comfort Dunham described so many years ago. years.

Catherine, or Birdy, is a classic young adult heroine beautifully brought to life by Bella Ramsey, a talented young actress who couldn’t show off her wonderful comedic qualities as Lyanna Mormont in “Game of Thrones.” We are introduced to Birdy in the final days of her privileged teenage years, living with her family, mother Lady Aislinn (Billie Piper), father Lord Rollo (Andrew Scott), brother Robert (Dean-Charles Chapman) and nurse Morwenna (Lesley Sharp) at Stonebridge Manor where the only wealth this great family seems to have left is the value of their titles. She longs to fight in the Crusades like her handsome Uncle George (Joe Alwyn) or be a monk like her other brother (who is more fun than most monks, she promises) – essentially anything but being a wife and a mother, which is all she’s allowed to do.

Much to her horror, she’ll find out that her father’s plan to save them from financial ruin is to marry her off to the highest bidder, which leads to amusing montages of how she tries to sabotage the games. The film pulls you into this anachronistic world with a soundtrack of 1990s covers and a “Fleabag” irreverence that many recent projects have tried unsuccessfully to emulate. But Dunham’s script and its cast are up to the task of merging the old with the new without resorting to inserting Instagram-talk into the script like Mad Libs.

There is certainly nothing new in the story of a young woman, whether in the 13th or 21st century, who is expected by society and her parents to live a life she does not want, but Dunham is wise enough not to make the marriage imminent. be the only thing. It’s a movie that’s much more about family, friendship, and the heartbreak of growing up. That way, the emotion of it all sneaks up on you. It pulls you in with comedy, wit and irreverence and before you know it you’re reaching for the tissues and wondering when you came to care so much about the father-daughter relationship. .

His trials aside, it may be the best thing Dunham has done and it makes me excited for what’s to come now that the world isn’t constantly asking him to apologize for his early success and upbringing.

That Dunham held on to the dream of doing “Catherine Called Birdy” for so long is equally incredible, especially in an industry that only occasionally lets women do things that meant something to them as girls who didn’t. weren’t written by Jane Austen or called “Little Women.” And I suspect quite a few precocious young ladies will find similar comfort in Dunham’s film.

Don’t get me wrong, though: “Catherine Called Birdy” is an unabashed delight for everyone. It might be a bit deeper for a certain age group.

“Catherine Called Birdy,” an Amazon Studios release in theaters Friday and on Prime Video October 7, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association for “certain suggestive and thematic elements.” Duration: 108 minutes. Three and a half out of four stars.

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MPA Definition of PG-13: Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some content may be inappropriate for children under 13.

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Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr


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