TORONTO — Lena Dunham has discovered a new calling that no one might have predicted: directing children’ films.
The controversial writer-director whose widespread HBO collection “Girls” was infamously nudity-and-sex-filled has segued to the coming-of-age style along with her charming comedy “Catherine Called Birdy,” which had its world premiere on the Toronto International Film Festival.
Running time: 108 minutes. Rated PG-13 (some suggestive materials and thematic components). In theaters Sept. 23. On Prime Video Oct. 7.
Before you reflexively protect your youngsters’s eyes, know that Dunham’s newest effort is a fairly applicable mashup of “Shrek” and “Brave” with the “convey out your useless!” aesthetic of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”
While the story, which she has tailored from the novel by Karen Cushman, is fairly mature in spots, the PG-13 movie has a worthwhile “be your self” message that anyone can get behind. It’s well-made, and endlessly likable.
Lady Catherine (Bella Ramsey), who goes by Birdy, is a 14-year-old woman in 1290 England — and we first meet her throughout a slo-mo mud struggle. Despite her rough-’em-up demeanor, she’s the proper age for her dad Sir Rollo (Andrew Scott) to marry her off to a wealthy man to assist repay the money owed he’s incurred from squandering cash on requirements resembling a wild tiger.
It’ll be a problem, although. Dad shouts, “She’s disgusting! She’s one step away from a leper!”
And Birdy’s not sizzling on holy matrimony both. She’s decided to scare off each suitor that comes her approach — all of the whereas scheming along with her pals Perkin (Michael Woolfitt) and Aelis (Isis Hainsworth) and misguidedly crushing on her good-looking Uncle George (Joe Alwyn, who’s been too chill on-screen currently. I miss “The Favourite” Alwyn).
There are darker, true-to-life components at play past the farce. Birdy’s mom (Billie Piper), as an example, has struggled to have extra youngsters since Birdy was born and has suffered a number of miscarriages. Also, one of many younger teen’s male admirers is a creepy outdated dude she calls “Shaggy Beard.” Some dad and mom would possibly wince at that. But, come on, it’s the Middle Ages. Whaddya need? “The Wiggles”?
Dunham has made a actually enticing and cohesive movie, merging her trendy, punky sensibilities with the dirt-and-stone drear of the time interval. The music seamlessly hops between Gregorian chants by way of “Glee” and pop tunes. The parent-child dynamics and talking type in Thirteenth-century England had been most likely not so 2022, however there is an emotional resonance to Dunham’s tackle the fabric. Not to say ample hilarity.
The forged is filled with gifted comedians. Ramsey grew to become a breakout star on “Game of Thrones” when she played that tiny spitfire Lyanna Mormont. As Birdy, she’s an irrepressible ball of insurgent power who’s immediately endearing and brimming with wit. And Scott, a sensible stage actor best known as the Hot Priest on “Fleabag,” is at his neurotic, humorous greatest.
I’m glad to see Dunham, who gave the impression to be headed for the exit after the so-so HBO present “Camping” and the off-putting mess “Sharp Stick” earlier this 12 months, again in good type. How pretty it might be if this Middle Ages movie, which hits Prime Video Oct. 7, begins her renaissance.