3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

As Louisa May Alcott’s novel passes the 150-year mark since its publication, it continues to be a story that resonates with the hearts of audiences around the world. With this seventh cinematic adaptation and another coming from director Greta Gerwig in 2019, the popularity of the literary classic does not seem to be dissipating. Clare Niederpruem’s version is a modernised telling of the classic tale of the Marsh sisters that tries to show the timelessness of Alcott’s work.

For those that may not be familiar with the masterwork of the American author, this is a story of sisters who are given free rein to dream their own dreams of life. With their father away at war, the home-schooled siblings follow their skills and passions while strengthening their familial bonds. Jo March (Sarah Davenport) is the leader of the pack and has grand aspirations of being a great author and living anywhere else in the world. Meg (Melanie Stone) wants to live a simple life of wife and mother while their sister Beth (Allie Jennings) is quite content with her life in the March home. Which leaves their youngest sibling, Amy (Elise Jones), chasing after her older sisters and focussing on the more superficial areas of life and her love of painting. 

Marmee March (Lea Thompson) must direct this energetic and creative band of daughters to womanhood while her husband serves overseas. Relying on the sisters to watch out for one another until the inclusion of a new neighbour and friend, Laurie Lawrence (Lucas Grabeel) manages to win the hearts of this close-knit bunch. As the family matures and the realties of life settle in, the sisters discover that achieving their dreams comes with a costs. The bonds that have been forged throughout their lives are tested through tragedy, loss and the pains of love. 

For fans of the book and the other film adaptations, Clare Niederpruem’s modern spin on the beloved may struggle to measure up to the legacy. Even though Alcott’s characters do translate to the contemporary world exceptionally well, this Hallmark-style interpretation does have some big shoes to fill. It does have an optimistic and wholesome place within the canon of Little Women, but will most likely become the forgotten stepchild within this family of films. 

In an attempt to journey through the years of the sisters’ lives at various times, the editing becomes a hindrance to the timeline clarity. The three older sisters did not change their look throughout the years, which made it difficult to determine where the story was at times. This underlying frustration is perpetuated by the lead role played by Sarah Davenport, whose portrayal of Jo March never manages to soften or have much appeal. These central elements do undermine the production, but do not cause it to be without appeal.

This present-day experience is one of the most optimistic versions of the classic novel and when the sisters are on screen together, there is magic about the movie. Despite having a saccharine-sweet tone, the love and devotion between the March family provides the emotional highs and lows needed to keep the intended audience engaged to the end. For the fans of this genre of films, Little Women (2018) is just what most would desire. It provides heartwarming moments, spirit breaking twists and enough tear-jerking scenes to keep the tissue industry in business for the year. This film is not meant to be groundbreaking cinema, but an antidote to this cynical world by providing a positive depiction of family and friends. 

REEL DIALOGUE: Are siblings worth the drama?

Our families bring out the best and worst in our lives. Parents, siblings and all of the various layers know more about our history. They can remind us of our successes and our failures throughout our lives. Interestingly, the God of the Bible had the best of intentions for families from the beginning of time. The goal was to be a cohesive unit that works together and celebrates the various gifts that each were given. Even in this fallen existence, family members should strive to encourage one another. Weeping with those when they weep, celebrating when they are celebrating and speaking the truth into their lives with grace, love and mercy. 

Questions

1. What is sacrificial love? (John 15:13, Ephesians 5:25)

2. Is life mysterious? (Colossians 2:1-3, Matthew 13:11-13)

3. Does God care about my dreams? (Jeremiah 29:11, Proverbs 16:3)