I went to see Lady Bird with my closest Cambridge friends, after which we spilled onto the grubby pavement of the Picturehouse, filled with a rare lightnessSony Pictures & Zero Media

Comparing my first year at university to two of this year’s Oscar Best Picture nominees makes me feel like exactly the sort of pretentious Cambridge student I was determined not to become. However, I am hoping that forgiveness can be found in the thought that we are all the protagonists of our own stories, the stars of our own Best Picture.

I felt a sense of relief that I wasn’t the only one who could feel lost, crazy, and self-centred most of the time, and for that to be fine

Fittingly, I went to see Lady Bird with my closest Cambridge friends. The friends who have been so supportive through my own character arc this year from the inner teenage angst of a character like Lady Bird to the more serene lead in Call Me By Your Name, Elio. That night, we spilled out onto the grubby pavement in front of the Picturehouse with that rare lightness at having been genuinely laughing for the last 95 minutes. I felt a sense of relief that I wasn’t the only one who could feel lost, crazy, and self-centred most of the time, and for that to be fine.

Lady Bird isn’t the best version of herself she can be; scenes of her being needlessly rude to her mother, an overworked nurse, come to mindA24/Lady Bird

Director-writer Greta Gerwig shows in Lady Bird, through presenting the character’s disdain for her senior year at Sacramento Catholic High School, that even in these transitional stages of life, you will be okay.

The doubt surrounding identity stems from the perceived pressure to know exactly who you are and preferably make this obvious in an aesthetic that allows you to be immediately identified

A scene that particularly resonates is when Lady Bird’s mother pleads with her “I want you to to be the very best version of yourself you can be”, to which Lady Bird touchingly replies “what if this is the best version?”. This scene mirrors an inner dialogue that has run throughout my first year, more overplayed than a favourite record: the doubt surrounding identity which stems from the perceived pressure to know exactly who you are and preferably make this obvious in an aesthetic that allows you to be immediately identified – effortlessly edgy or super studious, the groovy girl or the ‘roadman’. Mix this with being handed back an affirmation, in the form of your weekly essay, that even academically you are sub-par compared with not only many around you, but your younger self. Lady Bird knows who she wants to be, a drama student in New York, not only expressed through her dress and attitude but most strikingly in giving herself a new name – the ultimate act of reclaiming the creation of her own identity.

Lady Bird knows who she wants to be, a drama student in New York, not only expressed through her dress and attitude but most strikingly in giving herself a new nameZero Media/Lady Bird

Lady Bird isn’t the best version of herself she can be; scenes of her being needlessly rude to her mother, an overworked nurse, come to mind. However, Gerwig writes in such a voice as to constantly show the character through a kind and sympathetic lens, possibly achieved so perfectly because of the autobiographical nature of the work. Perhaps this is the biggest lesson that we can take away – to turn that sympathetic eye within, because on some days, the act of participating relentlessly in the creation of your own ‘best’ identity is hard.

The sparkling Italian sun and afternoons lying on the Backs made me fall in love with this filmSony Pictures/Call Me By Your Name

By the time I saw Call Me By Your Name just before Easter term a calmer and more comfortable stage of the year was beginning. It could just be the snippets of sparkling Italian sun we experienced, the fact I purchased Sufjan Stevens on vinyl, or the afternoons spent lying on the Backs that led me to fall in love with this film.

That kind of acceptance makes me feel a little warmer inside, when you’re valued by your friends and more radically, yourself

However, the exploration of Elio’s character is what really resonated. He displays a mix of great cultural maturity in his love of classics and Bach with an emotional immaturity or at the very least inexperience, which I’ve noticed in many a Cantab- Aristotle by day and drunken A&E by night. This immaturity leads to his love interest, the some-what wiser Oliver, leaving him a note: ‘Grow up. I’ll see you at midnight’. This both bluntly acknowledges Elio’s flaws and shows his continuous infatuation – that kind of acceptance makes me feel a little warmer inside. Just like the acceptance in Lady Bird’s mother and the acceptance when, although you’re not the best at anything anymore, you’re valued by your friends and more radically, yourself.

“Our hearts and our bodies are given to us only once”Sony Pictures/Call Me By Your Name

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Mountain View

Cambridge and I: the question of identity

I took from Call Me By Your Name the desire of embracing one’s youth as a time to be passionate and bold, as Elio’s father reminds us, “our hearts and our bodies are given to us only once”. With this thought in mind the struggle over identity that was explored throughout Lady Bird and the first part of my year seems less significant. Of course, knowing who you are is important, but only to the extent to which deciding upon this makes you happy. I’ve learnt, through my transition from Lady Bird to Call Me By Your Name, that I would rather turn my energy from analysing how I am perceived by others to loving thoughtfully those whom I hold dear. That, I believe, will be a happier way to exist in second year.

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