There are not many comedies about girls living in Medieval England – but Lena Dunham is set to correct that with her new film Catherine Called Birdy. Based on the 1994 novel of the same name by Karen Cushman, it focuses on the young Lady Catherine (also known as Birdy), who’s trying to find her way through life in the quite perilous Medieval world.
The film’s set to release on 7th October on Amazon Prime, following a premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, where it was met with positive reviews.
Lady Catherine, nicknamed Birdy (played by Bella Ramsey) is a 14 year old living in the 13th Century, and finds herself at odds with her father (Fleabag’s Andrew Scott), who keeps trying to arrange a marriage for her. Birdy’s certainly not a fan of her various suitors, and enacts plans to scare them off. She’s far more interested in remaining an adventurous 14 year old, playing with her friend Perkin and getting up to mischief, and ignoring her parents. Birdy’s also worried about being married and becoming a mother, with her own mother Lady Aislinn (played by Billie Piper) having had several stillbirth pregnancies.
It was hard to convince a studio that this was a YA story that deserved to be told.
The film is a representation of how women back in the Medieval era were viewed essentially as commodities, with marriages being set up for financial gain. Dunham has been a fan of the original novel since she read it as a child, and wants other girls to feel the same affection she did, saying to The Hollywood Reporter: “I wanted it to feel like a big movie for the young people who watched it. I want girls to dress like Birdy for Halloween. I know that is a lofty goal, but that is my dream.”
While the film tackles some important issues like feminism and the expectations on women, it’s overall a fun comedy, with Birdy constantly trying to outwit her suitors and get out of sticky situations, with the Medieval world put through the lens of contemporary direction and dialogue. If you’ve read the novel, the film version deviates somewhat at points – but you’re still going to enjoy it. It was a fight to get the book turned into a movie with Dunham telling The Hollywood Reporter that “it was hard to convince a studio that this was a YA story that deserved to be told”. Dunham is certainly likely to achieve her dream of resonating with young girls around the world via this upbeat comedy – a proud moment considering it took her years to bring this story to the screen.