Film Review – Catherine Called Birdy (2022)

films, reviews

Rating: 3 out of 5.

According to certain people, there wasn’t a great deal to like about the final season of Game of Thrones but one of the standouts was Bella Ramsey getting more screen time as Lyanna Mormont. She was an amazing character and a fantastic performer. When this film came up on Prime recently, she was the main reason I was drawn to it. Then I saw the rest of the cast and I had to give it a chance. Andrew Scott, Lesley Sharp and Sophie Okonedo to name but a few. So many great British actors in one place. I had high hopes for this one.

Although, I had absolutely no knowledge of the book going into this film. Meaning I can’t comment on how faithful the film in adapting the source material. As the screenplay was written by Lena Dunham, I wouldn’t be shocked to discover the film had amped up certain feminist elements. The film definitely had a not very subtle girl power vibe. Not that I’m complaining about that but it did end up feeling like a much more modern film. The story may be set in the 13th century but it could easily transported to a more contemporary setting.

Bella Ramsey plays 14-year-old Lady Catherine, the only daughter of Lord Rollo and Lady Aislinn. She’s not your average lady and is more comfortable playing in the mud with her friend Perkins, the goatherd. Try and get her to do embroidery and she has no interest. Catherine, known as Birdy, spends her days romping around and having fun. Until her father realises that he is in financial ruin and must find a man willing to marry Birdy. She is not happy and does everything she can to drive the suitors away. Can Birdy avoid her fate or will she have to do this for the sake of her family?

I suspect that part of the reason this film works so well is the cast. They all do a great job in making these characters stand out. I can’t even imagine how horrible this could have been with Hollywood actors. It doesn’t bear thinking about. Yes, it doesn’t feel like a great historical film but it works on the teen movie front. The film tries to say some interesting things about being a woman in that time but it never goes too far. To say this is about the fate of women, the majority of the female characters are underwritten. Billie Piper and Leslie Sharp should have been given much bigger parts. Thankfully, Bella Ramsey is great in the main role and has a lot of run playing this character.

Overall, this is a strange film. For the most part, it portrays the time period as sort of idyllic except for a ew annoyances for women. It never really goes too deep into Birdy’s problems or those of her female friends and relatives. Instead, the film focuses more on trying to maintain a level of silliness and childish humour. It’s not that this is a terrible film. It’s enjoyable enough and the performances are great. It’s just a bit messy. Dunham is working very hard to get her points across in spite of the setting and story. It could have worked better had the feminist message happened more organically than being half-heartedly forced into every aspect.

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