Catherine Called Birdy
The year is 1290 and Lady Catherine, who prefers to go by the name Birdy, (Game of Thrones’ Bella Ramsey) has just turned 14 and entered womanhood. The time for her to be married has arrived, with the dowry being the solution to her family’s financial woes. However, Birdy would rather spend her days playing in the mud with her friends or running amok in the village. To ensure she remains with her loved ones, the youngster does everything in her power to deter her suitors in Lena Dunham’s Catherine Called Birdy, an adaptation of Karen Cushman’s YA novel of the same name.
From the opening scene in which we see Birdy gleefully taking part in a mud fight, Dunham’s film is imbued with vibrant personality and a light-hearted sense of humour that never fails to charm. Bouncing from witty dialogue to endearingly childish fart jokes (sometimes a mixture of both), this medieval coming-of-age tale is an all-round blast to watch. Ramsey’s charismatic performance is at the centre of what makes this film work. She embodies all the silliness and childlike innocence of the humour, whilst executing the more dramatic points with equal conviction. A supporting cast including Billie Piper, Andrew Scott and Lesley Sharp (alongside a great cameo from The Witch’s Ralph Innes) further add to the festivities at hand.
Coming from Dunham, Catherine Called Birdy is as fiercely feminist as it is funny. It takes full advantage of its 13th-century setting to tackle issues surrounding women’s role in society and, as Birdy puts it, what girls can and cannot do. It’s through her growing realisations about what’s expected from her as a woman and her pushing back against these traditions that Birdy finds her voice. Though the message of “just be yourself” is a tried-and-tested cliché within this genre, the filmmaker gives it refreshing new life with its feminist medieval spin.
It’s in the underwhelming final act where this film stumbles: it hits all the necessary beats to get where it needs to go, however, the climactic moments feel rushed and tacked on rather than a natural progression of events, especially after the long build-up to get there. Though the climax hits a bum note, it’s not enough to spoil the carefree spirit of Dunham’s joyful film.
Catherine Called Birdy is released in select cinemas on 23rd September and on Amazon Prime Video on 7th October 2022.
Watch the trailer for Catherine Called Birdy here: