A review of the 2016 film “20th Century Women”

This 2016 movie didn’t register on my radar at all on its release but, five years later, I caught it on television during the global pandemic. It will not be to everyone’s taste because it is totally character-driven with no set action pieces – but I loved it. It is written and directed by Mike Mills, set in Santa Barbara in 1979, and very loosely based on the creator’s mother. 

Dorethea (Annette Bening) is a single mother whose son Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) is now a 15 year old teenager and she thinks that she needs some help in assisting him to face his changing world, so she enlists her lodger Abbie (Greta Gerwig) and her son’s friend Julie (Elle Fanning). Also knocking around is handyman William (Billy Crudup). Things don’t quite work out as Dorethea intended, with Jamie supporting the women as much as they instruct him on everything from punk rock to female sexuality. 

The structure is quite post-modern with flash-backs, flash-forwards and lots of cultural references of the times (films, books, music), but that’s modern storytelling for you and, on this occasion, it really worked for me. 


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