Movie Review: 20th Century Women

By Maria Lubanovic, Staff Writer
[A24, 2016]
Rating: 7.5/10

20th Century Women focuses on the struggle of an older woman raising her son in the changing climate of the 1970s. Dorothea Fields feels that her teenage son Jamie is struggling to figure out who he is, so she asks for two younger women, Abbie and Julie, to help him grow up into a good man.

The film shows Jamie growing up and changing through separate, scattered events in his life. Jamie is there when Abbie is explaining punk music to him and takes him to a show, but is also there when Abbie goes to the hospital to find out if she has cervical cancer. Jamie loves Julie, but Julie never wants to be physical with him even though she sometimes sleeps in his bed, and that makes him insecure and unhappy. However, Julie is important because she is one of the closest people to him and can teach him how to be a better man.

One of the biggest themes of the movie is feminism, and how that can be beneficial to everyone. When Jamie is given Abbie’s old Women’s Studies books from her college days, he becomes more understanding of the women around him, especially his mom. In one heartbreaking scene, he reads the section about how older women seem to be discarded from society. Dorothea is torn by this, as she doesn’t want to admit that she feels this way, but she sees how the other two women are helping him.

Some of the scenes are narrated by Dorothea, but from another point in time, and sometimes don’t make sense where they are placed. She talks about everyone’s future, sometimes at inopportune moments. There are also effects that are used that don’t make much sense, like the rainbow filter whenever anyone is driving a car or subtitles to reference a book or a character. They are artistic choices, but the meaning of them is unclear.

The biggest problem with the film is that it doesn’t have a plot. The pieces are interesting but are hardly linked, and the film lacks a true resolution. That said, the characters were strong and it was an interesting thing to watch for the time period and the message that the filmmakers were trying to portray.

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