20th Century Women, review: ‘Bening, Gerwig and Fanning are really special’

21st Century Women. Picture: Entertainment One

21st Century Women. Picture: Entertainment One - Credit: Archant

20th Century Women is so truthful it’s as though you lived it yourself, but all this truth is delivered at a pretty slow pace

Almost every aspect of this coming of age, ensemble period piece is deeply impressive: the acting, the inventive but unshowy direction, its lightness of touch and depth of feeling. While watching I loved everything about it; other than it not having finished yet.

We’re in Santa Barbara in 1979. Single mum Dorothea (Annette Bening) is a non bohemian living a bohemian lifestyle and wondering how to raise her 15 year old son Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) without a male influence.

She turns to the people closest to her to help out. Those would be her two tenants: an easy going handyman (Billy Crudup) who can’t quite get in synch with the hippy lifestyle and a photographer enthused by the emergent punk scene (Greta Gerwig). Also there is Julie (Elle Fanning), Jamie’s best friend but not girlfriend who sneaks in to share his bed but nothing else.

The film is funny and touching, but defiantly undramatic. A lovely Air-y synth score floats us through, inviting us to look for something bigger than a good story.


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You imagine this must be a film of a memoir, but actually its seems to be a fictionalised version of the director’s upbringing.

20th Century Women is so truthful it’s as though you lived it yourself, but all this truth is delivered at a fearfully sluggish clip.

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I was wowed by the film but when I sneaked a glance at my watch and saw that it was less than halfway through I let out a sigh.

But the acting is really special. As I write this I have no idea who has won/been nominated for the various women’s acting awards but I am sure that whoever it is won’t have been as good as the three here.

Rating: 3/5 stars

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