Greta Gerwig and the Art of Return

"“You can do nothing if you go back.”

So says Aunt March to her niece Amy in Greta Gerwig’s Little Women. The two are in Paris, and Amy has just received word from home of her sister Beth’s declining health. Amy feels she should go back, but Aunt March insists nothing good will come of a homecoming—nothing for Beth (who is sick, not lonely), and nothing for Amy, for whom a return might preempt an advantageous marriage proposal.

Aunt March’s words might also challenge screenwriter and director Gerwig herself. After five film adaptations of Louisa May Alcott’s 1868 novel, can anything come from going back? A remake risks rehashing the March sisters’ tale simply to invoke nostalgia or, worse, to impose themes foreign to Alcott’s classic. Impressively, Gerwig avoids both pitfalls, instead making the timeless tale her own with an emphasis on the importance of return."