Song of the Day #4,226: ‘This Eve of Parting’ – John Hartford

Best Movies of the 2010s
#3 – Lady Bird (2017)

Greta Gerwig is one of two directors to land two films on my Top 20 of the Decade (both in the Top 10, no less). Even more impressive, these are her first two movies. Only one other film on this list (Jordan Peele’s Get Out) was a directorial debut.

I can make an argument that Little Women is a superior technical achievement, given its large cast, multiple locations and dual timeline structure, but Gerwig’s Lady Bird is an even more emotionally resonant work.

Lady Bird is a coming-of-age story about a Catholic school senior living in Sacramento in 2002 — details culled from Gerwig’s own history — and, ironically, its specificity makes it feel universal.

Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) has a complicated relationship with her hometown that rings true no matter where you grew up. A line from this year’s The Last Black Man in San Francisco made me think of Lady Bird. When that film’s protagonist overhears two young women complaining about San Francisco, he asks if they love the city, because “you don’t get to hate it unless you love it.”

Lady Bird‘s version of that line comes from a nun at Christine’s school. “You clearly love Sacramento,” she says, “You write about Sacramento so affectionately, and with such care.” Surprised, Christine shrugs, “I guess I pay attention.” To which the nun replies “Don’t you think maybe they are the same thing — love and attention?”

That line applies to Christine’s feelings about Sacramento, but also to her relationship with her mother. Lady Bird is one of the greatest mother-daughter films ever made, with the loving but often antagonistic bond between Christine and her mom (played exquisitely by Laurie Metcalf) providing the movie’s central conflict.

The line also applies to the attention (and love) Gerwig gives to so many aspects of this film. She explores best friends, first loves, school plays, birthdays, heartbreaks, prom nights and Sunday morning open houses, all with a careful eye for detail and an expert writer’s knack for a good joke or an emotional gut punch.

Lady Bird is laugh-out-loud funny and cry-out-loud sad. It’s sacrilegious and deeply spiritual. It’s a movie about flawed people that is itself without flaws.

And, perhaps most important of all, it heralds the arrival of a young filmmaking voice who is without a doubt one of the most exciting auteurs working today. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

It’s hard to think this eve of parting
Turns to sand of summer gone
When both our minds are warped with parting
Break the thought of nights alone

Maybe I should turn in silence
Tell myself I didn’t care
Curse the thought of your existence
Loving every flaxen hair

Flesh cries out, “Don’t move, don’t leave me”
Conscience runs till out of breath
Sunrise pregnant with your leaving
Creeping in like certain death

The pattern of the bird of love
That’s wheelin’ on its dizzy way
Tears me down to basic sorrow
Useless for another day

It’s hard to think this eve of parting
Turns to sand of summer gone
When both our minds are warped with parting
Break the thought of nights alone

Flesh cries out, “Don’t move, don’t leave me”
Conscience runs till out of breath
Sunrise pregnant with your leaving
Creeping in like certain death

11 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,226: ‘This Eve of Parting’ – John Hartford

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    So, to continue our discussion 😁, here’s yet another example of a film that was probably propelled to Best of the Decade status based on extrinsic factors, including the positive experience of seeing this with a family who loved the movie (particularly your wife, who had the extrinsic factor of self-identification with her catholic school childhood) and then repeat viewing to fortify your opinion.

    By contrast, I went in to see the movie with my wife and family after the hype and with very high expectations based on praise from others (including you and your family), and I came away liking but not loving the movie. Not surprisingly, my family had a similar opinion and reaction.

    The film certainly had all the positive elements you have cited, but i did not feel it carried through to the end. Perhaps a second viewing would raise my opinion, or I could just say, as you did with Moonlight, that I have no need to see that movie again.😁 So, if you want to experiment, I’ll give Ladybird a second viewing if you do the same with Moonlight.😁

    • Clay says:

      I find it hilarious that when I list a movie you love, your comment is “great pick!” but when I list a movie you’re less fond of, you suggest there is some extrinsic factor responsible for its inclusion.

      Then when the discussion turns to a movie on your theoretical list (like Moonlight), you propose external factors that kept it off of mine.

      It’s as if you think my list would (or should) be identical to yours but for these elusive extrinsic factors.

      You seem to discount the most important factor of all, which is that everybody has different taste!

      I expect many movies on your theoretical best-of-the-decade list are films I would never consider for mine, and that’s wonderful. How boring would it be if we all reacted the same way to every movie?

      As for Lady BIrd, I believe you saw the movie before I did. We both heard lavish praise from Maddie (who has it on her own best-of-decade list) so that might be what you’re recalling.

      • Dana Gallup says:

        No, I don’t think our lists should be identical and I agree that one’s personal taste is a substantial factor. And I am not only applying extrinsic factors to you to explain relative (not substantial) differences in opinion-I am applying them to me as well.

        If we are talking about a movie like Grand Budapest Hotel or Buster Scruggs, our personal preferences make our different opinions clear. In a similar way, we have a convergence in taste with movies such as Spotlight.

        However, when it comes to Moonlight, which is a movie consistent with your taste that you liked less than expected, or a movie like Mama Mia 2, which is not a movie consistent with your taste that makes your top 20 of the decade, I think it is fair or interesting (to me at least) to consider factors that might explain a departure from the expected.

        So, stop laughing at me guy!😜

        • Clay says:

          That’s fair, although I don’t think Get Out, Creed or Sing Street are movies that necessarily align with my taste (at a best-of-decade level, anyway) and you didn’t question those because you’re a big fan as well.

          • Dana Gallup says:

            I would think Get Out and Creed align with your taste, perhaps not Sung Street although it too falls within the relatively small independent sweet spot that certainly distinguishes it from more commercial fare like MM2.

  2. Peg says:

    I watched this movie alone and on TV because of the high praise I heard from everyone. I loved the mother/daughter interactions especially since Laurie Metcalf is one of our finest actresses. Not sure it would be in my top ten but I certainly can understand why it could be in others.

    • Amy says:

      I love how your comments are always so diplomatic. 🙂 I, too, can understand why it could be on another’s list, though it is not on mine.

  3. Amy says:

    I loved this film, particularly the performance of Laurie Metcalf.

    When it comes to the depiction of mother/daughter relationships, though, I’m partial to the films of Nicole Holofcener. I guess Catherine Keener would be to her what Saoirse Ronan is to Gerwig. I have great affection for Lovely & Amazing, but it is Enough Said that cemented by love for this writer/director who doesn’t get the appreciation she deserves, perhaps in part because nobody can pronounce her last name. 🙂 In an interview about that film she said, “I don’t like people to sound fake or overly literary. It definitely takes me out of a movie when I hear somebody say something clever just for cleverness sake and it seems like the writer showing off… I think so many female leads get labeled as one thing. She’s type A, or she’s frumpy even though she’s really pretty, or she’s clumsy, or she’s a basket case. That’s just so not interesting to me. It’s just limited imagination or sexism that causes it to happen…
    I don’t really plan it out for the characters to have these really raw human experiences, but I think inevitably it ends up that way. In the story I want to tell, the characters end up being probably embarrassed frequently or they’re in awkward situations just like in real life. I always have a desire to show people the way they are—from how they dress to how stupid they can be, and how entertaining they can be. It’s just human behavior. I’d like to have as little bullshit in there as possible.”

    Anyway, this is my attempt to focus on another woman writer director who is equally deserving of the spotlight. Greta Gerwig is great and all, but she’s far from the only talented female filmmaker who has been working this past decade.

  4. Amy says:

    You’re in for such a treat 🙂

  5. Maddie says:

    I absolutely love Enough Said and have considered adding it to my top list. I think I owe it another watch, it’s been too long. Lady Bird, as Clay already mentioned, did make my list for all the reasons he listed. It’s a special special movie that arrived right at a moment to make it particularly impactful for me. It has been funny to read the back and forth on each post that my dad isn’t completely in line with. I agree, of course, that extrinsic factors affect some of our feelings surrounding a piece. But that’s so inextricably tied to the personal opinion you have on the film to begin with, so it feels like a silly thing to try and poke apart the reasoning as something trivial. Would love to see the list you make, dad. 🙂

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