I think about Marmee’s birthday in Greta Gerwig’s Little Women constantly because it’s the most perfect way to end a film like this. It’s warm, it’s beautiful, and in the silence, it conveys so much of the film’s heart. It brings Beth March into the occasion so appropriately as her silence becomes the voice that echoes all throughout. You feel every ounce of her love and the person who she used to be in that moment of sheer bliss that’s reflective of the kind of life these women lived.
Threaded together with the moment Little Women is printed as a novel, it’s a small scene, but it’s reflective of this film’s spirit beautifully. Marmee March is the heart of Little Women—the girls are who they are because of the love she has given each of them, and this scene is a reflection of her girls giving back.
It’s the moments we get to see that they’ve each done what they were meant to do and what they want to. No one settles, they all choose for themselves. Jo March included, as we know, that in this adaptation, especially if she didn’t want to be with Professor Bhaer, she wouldn’t have.
It’s wholesome in every way because, after such tremendous loss, the girls celebrating Marmee this way is the very thing Beth would have wanted them to do. It’s the very way she would have chosen to sing and laugh and dance with her sister’s for their mother. Marmee’s birthday in Little Women is the kind of scene I want to see at the end of a show like Bridgerton too. A moment with all the kids, all the spouses, and those who are no longer with them honored in the energy that’s present.
You know that this is the kind of moment that each of them is worthy of celebrating because Marmee’s birthday is integral to the heart of the film as she is the kind of character who’d flip mountains for her family (and the world). As we watched her once give away their Christmas meal to a family in need, this is the scene where it all comes back in tenfold for her.
Because even though it’s just a cake, even though it’s merely a simple celebration, the detail that they are all there is what makes it so tremendously moving. Laura Dern is my favorite Marmee because no one conveys every ounce of Marmee’s heart the way Dern does. The joy in her is so perfectly infectious that even though it’s a happy moment, it makes me sob like a baby.
Marmee March deserves the world, and for a moment, she has a piece of it again. I also appreciate how the scene fades into the book because it’s ultimately what reflects the heart of the story—the detail that even though Jo March is always presumed the heroine with her sisters, Marmee March is the heart of it all, and Marmee’s birthday concludes the family scenes perfectly reflects that beautifully.
And if we’re being honest with ourselves, this isn’t really a breakdown as much as it is a gushing about the kind of blissful moment that feels right in a film like Little Women.