Opens: January 1
Genre: Drama
Duration: 135 minutes

With countless screen versions including a recent BBC TV adaptation, no one can claim Louisa May Alcott’s 1860s novel about a female dominated family around the time of the US Civil War has been neglected. The challenge for any new take is to make it fresh and distinctive, otherwise why bother?

Little WomenSaoirse Ronan, Emma Watson and Florence Pugh in Little Women. Photo © Wilson Webb, 2019 CTMG, Inc

American director Greta Gerwig’s innovation is to reflexively fold the story of Alcott’s own struggle to publish into the character of Jo March. She’s helped enormously by Saoirse Ronan’s spunky performance as Jo, along with a typically wonderful Florence Pugh as her sister Amy and a sparkling supporting ensemble including Laura Dern, Meryl Streep, Emma Watson, Timothée Chalamet, and Bob Odenkirk.

Less successful is the non-linear timeline, which heightens a sense of the episodic, though fortunately without undermining the film’s vim, nor its vigour.