Saturday, 3 June 2017


eOne Films

It's 1979, and in a post-Vietnam, post-'summer of love', feminist-era Santa Barbara, Dorothea Fields (Annette Bening) is coming to terms with a brave new world.

The single mother is also coming to terms with an adolescent son, Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann), on the cusp of manhood and what exactly that means for the both of them. How does she raise him to be a good man? And how does he assert his independence away from her?

The former question sees Dorothea enlist Abbie (Greta Gerwig), her arty tenant, and Julie (Elle Fanning), a neighbour and slightly older friend and confidant of Jamie, in her cause. For Jamie, it means testing the waters and pushing the boundaries; breaking curfew, and occasionally Dorothea's heart, in a bid to see just what he can get away with whilst determining what kind of man he wants to be.

Written and directed by Mike Mills (Beginners, 2011), 20th Century Women celebrates the roles that women play in shaping the men we become, and more specifically, the mothers who sacrifice so much to give their children the best possible tools for making a positive mark on the world.

The performances (including Billy Crudup as a New Age handyman lodger) are uniformly good, with Bening and Gerwig the standouts.

It may not pack the emotional punch of Beginners – Mills' autobiographical tale of his father's late-in-life coming out and simultaneous battle with cancer, though it does boast some of the same stylistic flourishes – but 20th Century Women is affecting nonetheless.

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