Movie Review: 20th Century Women

1979 was the year when the first woman Prime Minister was elected Margaret Thatcher, and it was also the year where women had the most breakthrough after a decade of struggle for equal rights. It was an age when women are enjoying their new found freedom to express themselves without being prejudiced. It was a great year and the movie was set at the same year in Santa Barbara.

The movie is about a single mom, Dorothea (Annette Bening), with the help of two other women Julie (Elle Fanning) and Abbie (Greta Gerwig). The story revolves around Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann), Dorothea’s teenage son. Although the movie revolves around him, the direction is still rooted from Dorothea. Her character is enigmatic and mysterious. She is worried about how his son will turn out because he is not growing up with  a father. She still tries to make the most of what she has to raise a son on becoming a man.

The women in this film are unique and has a can do attitude. They have their own minds, each character is very much alive. Independent in their own ways. Julie is a teenager who seems to get along well with other people. At one scene she says she’s good at compartmentalizing, a skill she’s learned from her mom who’s a psychologist. She and Jamie are best friends and she would sneak out of her bedroom at bedtime and would go to Jamie’s house to sleep over. Jamie loves Julie but Julie just wants to be friends. Abbie, is in her 20’s, she’s edgy, artistic and blunt. She’s relaxed but still feels insecure learning that she has cervical cancer. It makes her frustrated and anxious about dating again and being intimate with someone.

There were no mobile phones at the time, so people would go into one’s house to socialize. I especially like the scene where in everyone was watching the TV hearing the speech from Jimmy Carter who was at the time the President of the United States. It was a speech about consumerism which was very timely during this age of abundance.

I would give no more spoilers about the movie but I absolutely enjoyed the film. It’s a refreshing take on women in the 20th century and how struggles from the past haven’t changed much. Written and directed by Mike Mills.

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