‘Catherine Called Birdy’ review: Charming adaptation of beloved ‘Young Adult’ book

Based on Karen Cushman’s award-winning ‘Catherine, Called Birdie’, the film vividly recreates growing up in medieval England, warts and all.

Based on Karen Cushman’s award-winning ‘Catherine, Called Birdie’, the film vividly recreates growing up in medieval England, warts and all.

In 1290 in Stonebridge, England, the life of 14-year-old Lady Catherine, (Bella Ramsay) is full of excitement and adventure. Aside from chasing pigs and rolling in the mud, the Crusades included cottage farming and executions to fight for king and country or become a hermit. She also has fun times hanging out with her “heart brother” goat kid, Perkin (Michael Woolfitt).

Known as Catherine Birdie

Director: Lena Dunham

Cast: Bella Ramsay, Billie Piper, Andrew Scott, Michael Woolfitt, Leslie Sharpe, Dean-Charles Chapman, Archie Renaux, Joe Alwyn, Paul Kay, Russell Brand

Story Line: A 14-year-old’s life and loves in medieval England

Run Time: 108 Minutes

However, as Catherine, known as Birdie to the many birds she raises, realizes, a woman can’t do any of these fun things. A woman must have “lady lessons,” Birdie’s least favorite term. She should learn to spin and sing, be nice and obedient, all to get a good match. Her long-suffering nurse, Morwenna, (Leslie Sharpe) tries to do everything she can to do Birdie’s bidding.

When Birdie’s father, Rollo (Andrew Scott, excellent), discovers to his horror that his daughter is his only currency to change the fortunes of Stonebridge Manor, he invites a string of wealthy suitors, including a wool merchant (Russell Brandt). Birdie is equally determined to destroy all proposals. Birdie’s mother, Lady Aislinne (Billie Piper), sympathizes with Birdie when she tells him, “I’d rather you settle down than you’d be sulking.”

Birdie’s two brothers, the annoying Robert (Dean-Charles Chapman) and the hermit Edward (Archie Renaux), who is close to Birdie, love their little sister in their own way. When George (Joe Alwyn), Catherine’s favorite and only uncle, returns from the Crusades, there’s some chance for excitement. Even when Lady Alice (Isis Hainsworth), Birdie’s best friend comes to stay.

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Based on winning the Karen Cushman Award Catherine, known as Birdie (1994), the film was lovingly adapted by writer-director Lena Dunham. Although some things have been changed around, the spirit of the book has clearly come to life.

Apart from gowns and manors in the 13th century, the real dangers of child birth and infant mortality. Birdie grieves for all the stillbirths her mother suffers. Cleanliness is not high on the to-do list in 1290, as Morwenna tells a muddy birdie “I took a bath a fortnight ago!”

There’s also the fact that people don’t have many options—they certainly can’t marry for love. As soon as Alice’s mother died her father sent for a new wife, and Alice was promised to the seven-year-old Duke. Birdie is promised to the old and repulsive Shaggy Bard (Paul Kaye) despite his many machinations, but also dashes Uncle George and marries the wealthy, eccentric widow Ethelfritha (Sophie Okonedo) against any odds.

Corpus bones or thumbs of God (Berdie couldn’t decide which was a better nickname), life was tough, but fun if you knew where to look.

( Catherine Called Birdy is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video)

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Written by filmysector

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