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Columns Eleanor Ringel Cater

‘Catherine Called Birdy’ – film’s feministic approach is heavy-handed

Scene from "Catherine Called Birdy"

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

My instinctive dislike of Lena Dunham’s self-created public persona has admittedly gotten in the way of my evaluation of her new feature, “Catherine Called Birdy.”

So, if you’re a fan of Dunham and “Girls” and whatever else she’s done, don’t even bother reading this.

A scene from “Catherine called Birdy”

However, there’s also my equally instinctive admiration for young Bella Ramsey (“Game of Thrones”) in the title role. So, if you like spotting young talent early, well, maybe still don’t bother with this review, but maybe check out “Catherine Called Birdy.”

Catherine – all together now, also called Birdy – is a 14-year-old living in 13thcentury England. She’s a clever, free-spirited girl, still more interested in mud fights than making out. This is about to become a problem because her father, Sir Rollo (Andrew Scott), has pretty much frittered away the family fortune. His only remaining ace-in-the-hole is Birdy, whom he hopes to marry off to a wealthy suitor.

Movie poster of “Catherine called Birdy”

She couldn’t be less interested, to the point that she devises an elaborate scheme to disguise the fact that she’s started having her period (i.e., is of marriageable age). She also discourages suitor after suitor mostly by acting, well, unsuitable. The only man who even remotely interests her is her Uncle George (Joe Elwyn), but he’s not the solution her father is seeking.

The film’s feminism is most welcome. Its heavy-handed approach less so.

If it weren’t for Ramsey and Sophie Okonedo, in the small but hilarious role of an offbeat wealthy widow, the picture would be borderline unwatchable.

Still, as I said, if you’re a Dunham fan, disregard all this. “Catherine Called Birdy” might just be your cup of tea (or mead).

“Catherine called Birdy” is available for viewing on Prime Video.

Eleanor Ringel

Eleanor Ringel, Movie Critic, was the film critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for almost 30 years. She was nominated multiple times for a Pulitzer Prize. She won the Best of Cox Critic, IMAGE Film & Video and Women In Film awards. An Atlanta native, she graduated from Westminster and Brown University. She was the critic on WXIA’s Noonday, a member of Entertainment Weekly's Critics Grid and wrote TV Guide’s movie/DVD. She is member of the National Society of Film Critics and currently talks about movies on WMLB and writes the Time Out column for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.


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