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Catherine Called Birdy (Film Review)

3 min read

Catherine Called Birdy is a delightfully fun telling the story of 14-year-old Catherine (Bella Ramsey), who, as the title suggests prefers to be called Birdy, as she navigates life as a teenage girl in the medieval era. Her father Lord Otto (Andrew Scott) has frittered away his family's wealth and now must find an acceptable, and wealthy, match for his daughter, who would rather not become betrothed just yet.

While Lord Otto and his wife Lady Aislinn (Billie Piper) have had a number of children only three have survived infancy, the titular Birdy, and her two elder brothers Robert (Dean-Charles Chapman), whom she describes as “terrible”, and Edmund the Monk (Archie Renaux), who is “more fun than most Monks” according to his sister. And it's through a diary, written at the urging of Edmund, that Birdy tells her story.

Written and directed by Lena Dunham, whose work may be something of a  mixed bag, Catherine Calls Birdy stands out as something that bizarrely works, and that perhaps Dunham was the perfect person to write the screenplay for. Seamlessly weaving between the comedic angles and a rather serious topic at the heart of the story, this film can go from having you in stitches in one scene to being on the brink of tears in the next. While this may not quite be for everyone, if you've liked Dunham's previous work, you'll likely enjoy watching Catherine Calls Birdy.

Throughout the film, Ramsey shines in the titular role and certainly holds her own among a rather star-studded cast, and there's really no weak link among the cast with everyone truly making their characters come alive. There are also some rather hilarious cameos, one being Russell Brand making an appearance as one of Birdy's potential suitors before he is promptly convinced to leave by Birdy, assuming a fake identity and her friend the goat-herder Perkin (Michael Wooflitt).

The film's main flaw is perhaps Dunham's need to make this film, set in medieval times, feel like a contemporary story, with Fleabag-style nods and winks to the cameras and montages put to modern pop songs. It's as though the setting was chosen just for the aesthetic rather than this being necessary. As the film progresses this can also begin to feel rather overdone and unnecessary to the plot as a whole.

And then there's a rather bizarre storyline where Birdy has romantic feelings for her uncle, George (Joe Alwyn), complete with the two having a pop montage to the song My Boyfriend's Back. At one point Birdy bemoans that George is her uncle, and not her cousin, as then a marriage between the pair would be allowed. This feels somewhat out of place in such a lighthearted film, and perhaps feels a little more House of the Dragon than teen-adjacent medieval .

Catherine Called Birdy is ultimately a fun if strange watch, that will be well suited for anyone looking for some kind of Bridgerton/Emily in Paris crossover but with a lot less sex. Although it may disappoint audiences who decide to watch thanks to its billing as a coming-of-age tale, as Birdy does mature a little but is largely still the mischievous teenage girl she is at the beginning, with it instead being her father who seems to develop and grow up.

Catherine Called Birdy is coming to on 7th October.