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Yasmeen Mamdouh
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Little Women: Offering Anything New?

Featured images: Wilson Webb – © © 2019 CTMG, Inc. – via


A book is always better than the movie, don’t we all agree? And when an endearing tale has been adapted cinematically too many times before, the stakes are even higher. That’s the case with Little Women, which had audiences wondering if it can offer anything new.

Little Women follows aspiring writer and tomboy rebel Jo March (Saoirse Ronan), as she lives in New York trying to make a living. When her younger sister, Beth (Eliza Scanlen), falls ill, she is called back to her hometown. In flashbacks, the audience goes on a coming-of-age journey of Jo, her eldest sister Meg (Emma Watson), her younger sister Amy (Florence Pugh), and her best friend Laurie (Timothee Chalamet). The four young women’s different personalities, aspirations, and reactions to the events in their lives lead the way to the harsh present of Beth’s illness.

The feature is an adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s famous book of the same name, which has been adapted more than once. This one stays true to the essence of the book, yet it includes some structural changes. Firstly, the film is not told in a linear storyline, but, instead, it depends on flashing backwards and forwards. At first, this is confusing for anyone not aware of the story or its characters, but soon enough, the audience will start to get the hang of it and find the constant flashing forwards and backwards to be a useful storytelling tool to compare and contrast.

The film’s biggest asset is maintaining the book’s depth of characterisation. Whether it’s with the main protagonist or the other characters, they are outstandingly relatable, multidimensional individuals.

The feature also has a modern energy to it, regardless of the era the film is set in, proving that human-centred stories transcend time. This is also shown in the film’s feminist approach, which is represented in the female characters’ lines and actions as well.

The ending, however, will leave you scratching your head, as it sets a precedent that no other adaptation has done before. But if Louisa May Alcott were still alive, it is safe to say that she would have been amused.

For the acting, Saoirse Ronan was phenomenally fierce and determined, as well as humanly vulnerable in her performance as Jo. Ronan’s performance definitely did the character justice and made her relatable, more than a century after the writing. Florence Pugh also gave a strong performance, and while Amy was usually despised in other adaptations and even the book, Pugh was able to humanise Amy’s desires and leave audiences believing her, and maybe even forgiving her. Timothee Chalamet was a spot-on Laurie, making viewers desperate for Jo to fall in love with him, as he was outgoing, charming and dreamy. Emma Watson’s Meg had the smallest of roles for such an important character; nonetheless, Watson was able to get the strong, kindhearted nature of her character through. Eliza Scanlen’s performance avoided the major pitfall of being too dramatic, and, instead, gave Beth a shy but life-loving aura.

The story of Little Women is undoubtedly a captivating masterpiece, and the newest adaption does it justice with a modern energy and an unsatisfyingly satisfying ending.


Like This? Try

Little Women (1994), Pride & Prejudice (2005), and Bombshell (2019).

360 Tip

Costume designer Jacqueline Durran made several duplicate costume pieces for Jo and Laurie, to make it seem like the characters share clothes.

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