A new Amy March for Greta Gerwig’s Little Women

Amy March, the youngest of the four March sisters has seemingly always been the least favourite sister among the little women. Since Louisa May Alcott’s novel was released in 1868, Amy has been labelled by readers as attention-seeking, bratty and selfish. And we get it— kind of: in comparison to the bold Jo, pragmatic Meg and shy Beth, who respectively have their own relatable traits, Amy doesn’t get the same attention she craves as a young girl. 

In the eighth adaptation of Little Women, director Greta Gerwig, proves Amy, played by the phenomenal Florence Pugh, is misunderstood and deserves to be seen. 

Gerwig modifies elements of the iconic classic, as she reintroduces us to the March sisters lives. In previous adaptations of the film, Amy, played by Elizabeth Taylor in 1949 or Kirsten Dunst in 1994, has been portrayed as the bratty, younger sister. Serving as a stark contrast to Jo, Amy’s outbursts and superficial worries are entertaining, yet prevent the audience from getting to understand her as a character. Through Gerwig’s adaptation, Amy snags more screen-time as we’re exposed to her insecurities and ambitions as a young girl, and subsequently as a young woman. 

Jumping between the past and present, Gerwig helps the audience see the March sisters’ transition to womanhood over the course of seven years. This is the first adaptation which begins in present day after the Civil War, showing us where each March sister has ended up: Meg (Emma Watson) is financially struggling as a wife and mother, Jo (Saoirse Ronan) is a budding writer living in a New York boarding house, Beth (Eliza Scanlen) is sick with scarlet fever, and Amy is taking painting classes in Paris. 

As a young girl, Amy is overdramatic and even vengeful at times—she throws a young Jo’s manuscript into the fire for leaving her behind and going to the theatre with her childhood crush, Laurie (Timothée Chalamet). This is one of the reasons why viewers detest Amy. Yet in the present, in Paris, she’s determined, composed and self-aware, possibly fueled by believing herself to be her “family’s last hope,” in securing a good marriage according to the audacious Aunt March (Meryl Streep). 

She pursues her ambitions of being an artist, while simultaneously trying to find a partner – a woman’s dream in the 1800s, because why can’t we have both? Amy differs from her older sister Meg who solely lives a domestic life, and the carefree Jo who refuses to get married and marches to the beat of her own drum. 

“Don’t sit there and tell me that marriage isn’t an economic proposition, because it is,” says Amy one afternoon to a wealthy carefree Laurie. She tells Laurie about how she isn’t ashamed to marry rich in order to give herself a stable life—as a woman, she would never be able to provide for herself. It’s this monologue that is one of the most chilling scenes in the film, and the audience comes to understand Amy’s seriousness and disdain for love. If not seen before, Amy suddenly becomes this sensible and mature woman and it’s hard not to empathize with Amy in this scene as she puts a woman’s experience into words. 

It’s important to mention Amy’s character is brought to life by Pugh, who was just nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actress in the film. Her assertive presence makes Amy appear confident through adulthood. From her pouty to proud moments, Pugh captures the essence of Amy without making it seem inauthentic to a woman’s growth. Both Gerwig and Pugh bring likability to a character who has been pitted against her sisters and disliked for over a century. No longer in Jo’s shadow, you root for Amy as her selfishness morphs into strength— the flaws in her personality are humanized, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll learn to empathize with her rather than vilify her.

Little Women is in theatres now. 

Photo courtesy of Wilson Webb/Sony Pictures.