The daughters of Doctor March, four “little women” against the wind


It is only in French-speaking countries that Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy are The Four Daughters of Doctor March, title of the astonishing, imposing and charming version of the novel by Louisa May Alcott (published in 1868), signed Greta Gerwig. Elsewhere, they are “little women” (the original title, Little women, has been translated literally into Spanish, Italian or German), adolescent girls, in a time when this category did not exist.

The American director and screenwriter wanted, and knew how to make a classic of children’s literature of the XIXe century a feminist manifesto for the use of girls and boys of the 21st centurye. However, she never loses sight of the fact that it is fiction, a fiction of which she also recounts the gestation, from the first sequences, abolishing the distance between the author of the novel and her character.

Jo March (Saoirse Ronan), three years after the end of the Civil War (in April 1865), is living in New York. She hopes to live better by convincing magazine editors to publish her news. Among them, Tracy Letts, accustomed to roles of authority, embodies the dominant discourse in these post-war years: it is necessary at the same time to distract, even exhilarate, while being careful not to upset decorum.

Asymmetric romance

From this unequal fight, Jo comes out with honors: his text will be published, the few dollars he will bring back will be used to support his family who still live poorly, despite the return from war of Doctor March (doctor in theology, not in medicine, hence the destitution). She barely has time to meet Professor Bhaer (Louis Garrel), an intellectual exotic, when the film embarks for Paris, where Amy (Florence Pugh) takes painting lessons under the chaperone of a dictatorial aunt (Meryl Streep). ), before returning to Massachusetts, where Meg, the eldest (Emma Watson), never ceases to mourn her childhood dreams while Beth (Eliza Scanlen) dies of scarlet fever.

Greta Gerwig gives her film a seriousness that shines through, even at the most euphoric moments, such as this provincial ball which should mark Meg’s debut in society and ultimately be the occasion for the meeting between Jo and Laurie (Timothée Chalamet ). From this asymmetrical romance between a boy with a girl’s name and a girl with a boy’s name, we can make a childlike romance. The director turns it into an initiation that tests both the young girl’s desire for independence and the boy’s sensuality.

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