WRITTEN WORK
WRONG SIDE OF THE TRACKS
- BHOOMI
Artist Bio
Bhoomi is an artist, graphic designer and writer currently based in Goa. She loves watching films, thinking about them deeply and sometimes writing about them. She also enjoy reading, crochet, the outdoors and wandering the internet. 


I think the movies that hit me the hardest are the ones that defy my assumptions about the characters. Much like life, the most interesting character arcs emerge as a result of unpredictability. Growing up in a small town was an annoying, inner conflict-inducing, sort of disorienting experience, but it was also enchanting and cosy in its ways - something I only realised later, having lived away. I don’t feel the need to get into the details of why and what anymore. I think a film like Ladybird does a much better job at that. 
The movie surprises you and makes you feel silly and humble in the nicest way possible. It leads you to believe one thing but shows you there is always more than how things appear on the surface. Greta Gerwig, the writer and director of the 2017 movie described it as a love letter to Sacramento, the suburban California town she grew up in. This sentiment flows like an undercurrent through the film. Christine “Ladybird” McPhearson, a senior in high school, is desperately trying to get into a college far away from her hometown. She finds her current environment captious and limiting. In her own words, she wants to go where ‘culture’ is. Ladybird also wants to escape her uptight catholic school upbringing. 

Photograph shared by the author

The relationship with her mother, Marion is intense, achingly loving, and a big chunk of the film is like an ongoing verbal tennis match between Ladybird and Marion. In a larger sense, the film draws parallels between the mother and daughter’s behaviour, often juxtaposing scenes in which they act similarly towards another character but in their own separate lives. Regardless of their differences and conflicting personalities, they have more in common than either would like to admit.
Ladybird’s dreams and ambitions are more than what Sacramento can offer. But once she does manage to leave, she remembers the city with great fondness and care. Having watched the film several times now, I question the possibility of escaping one's upbringing. It is easy to leave physically but can a place truly leave you? Perhaps love and hate are two sides of the same coin; there is a bit of both in all relationships whether to another living being or a place. As an uneasy and out-of-place teenager, I could not wait to leave the small town I was raised in, Udaipur. It almost felt like everything good, exciting, or worth happening was happening elsewhere and not here - the rest of the world, a soiree I was not invited to yet.

While watching the film, I deeply related to the embarrassment and shame Ladybird felt towards her hometown and the guilt that comes with feeling this way. For instance, she  jokingly tells her love interest that she lives on the ‘wrong side of the tracks’. Her mother works tirelessly to support their family while her dad has recently lost his job. Money is tight. Ladybird does everything within her reach to establish her identity as ‘different’ from that of everyone around her. Paradoxically, this emphasis on her uniqueness makes her feel even more alienated from her peers. On the surface, it seems like all she wants is to leave and never come back.
After moving to New York for college, Christine asks Marion if she felt emotional the first time she drove around Sacramento. Visually, the scene cuts between Christine and her mother driving around Sacramento and taking in the city. It is the first time in the film that Christine is in the driver’s seat instead of being driven around. She gets to choose where to go and what she wishes to see. In my opinion, having this autonomy over her experience - which is a big deal as a young adult - alters her perception of the city or lets her see its beauty ever so clearly. As the film comes to an end, Christine begins to accept and appreciate her mother and mellow hometown a little more. She starts embracing her birth name and prefers to use it. This film is a moving tale of what it means to grow up in a town where you did not feel like you belonged but over time, you come to appreciate it for what it is and what it has given you.

A city can be many things. In Ladybird's case, it is a living, breathing, and evolving character, much like all the other characters in the film. Places live inside us as much as we live inside them. When my friend took this picture of me in Udaipur, I don’t remember feeling any sort of appreciation for the undeniably beautiful landscape in front of me. It was only after looking at this photograph that I realised it.


Artist Note
There are so many reasons why a certain piece of art can resonate with someone. When I first watched the Greta Gerwig film, ‘Ladybird’, I enjoyed it and somehow, it was a film I intentionally and unintentionally rewatched many many times over the years. On a random, banal summer day sometime last year, I was at home rather bored. I was visiting my parents and decided to watch Ladybird again. But this time, it seemed to hit home (literally).
Apart from the obvious reasons as to why I like it- the small town setting of the film (similar to the one I grew up in), Saoirse Ronan’s jaunty and charming performance - I wanted to delve a little deeper. I thought about why I liked it so much and in the process discovered a lot more about the making of the film itself. It’s beautiful how art can transform and heal, like a soothing minty balm whose fragrance pulls you out of your misery; to see a grander and fuller picture filled with possibility.


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