“When you try to bend the ways of the world, I will cheer for you, Birdy, but I fear for you.”Lady Aislinn
Lena Dunham’s adaptation of Karen Cushman’s YA novel is mirthful medieval mischief, a fresh coming-of-age story that should entertain families beyond its direct target of adolescent girls. This is a feminist tale, with Birdy rebelling against attempts at marrying her off to solve the family’s financial woes. The novel was written in the form of a diary and that is the conceit for Birdy’s voiceover, essentially extracts from the book. The script is recognisably Dunham’s work, frank but generally approaching female hardship with a light touch, aided by a period setting that has no pretence at historical accuracy. The anachronistic soundtrack is also notable, creating an unusually cohesive backdrop through a series of pop covers by London singer Misty Miller. Bella Ramsey is wonderfully expressive as the impetuous Birdy, backed by Andrew Scott’s characteristic blend of comedic charm and emotional depth as Birdy’s profligate father, and an almost unrecognisable Billie Piper as her supportive but concerned mother. The 12A certificate seems appropriate primarily for an intense birthing scene — this is not House of the Dragon, but Dunham does not sanitise it either as the experience leaves an impression on Birdy, catalysing her changing view of her parents. Rebellious girls are likely to love Catherine Called Birdy; others should find it an enjoyable diversion.