This is a fantastic film – 20th Century Women with Annette Bening

— by Alyson Walsh


This a beautiful film. Beautifully shot in the hazy Californian sunshine. 20th Century Women is set in Santa Barbara at the end of the 1970s. Annette Bening is superb as Dorothea Fields, a chain-smoking, 55-year-old single mother living in a shared house with her 15-year-old son Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann). Greta Gerwig, Elle Fanning and Billy Cruddup are all brilliant as the housemates. And the young 20th Century Women are invited by Dorothea to help guide Jamie through adolescence, which proves to be touching, cringe-inducing and funny – there are some great one-liners. And being 1979, the soundtrack is ace, too. Dorothea has Sinatra’s As Time Goes By on repeat while Talking Heads and The Clash’s White Man In Hammersmith Palais (one of my favourite songs, ever) blare out from the other bedrooms. The laid-back 1970s styling is lovely; Bening’s character Dorothea wears Liberty prints and Birkenstocks ‘because she’s contemporary,’ and as the house is in constant need of repair, makes an appearance in an Industrial Onesie.

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Photo: New York Times

My friend Annie invited me to a preview of 20th Century Women last night (Annie thought the film was like Boyhood, though it reminded me of The Kids Are All Right), followed by a Q&A with Annette Bening. The 58-year-old actor grew up in Southern California and of reading Mike Mills script said, ‘My head exploded. This was the world I grew up in and I had a strong, intuitive reaction to it.’ She also spoke of the pressures on young female actors today and the importance of having a sense of separation between public and private life. I like what Bening said about her own family life/ life-stage:

‘I have enthusiasm for this stage of life. I have four children and they are almost out of the house, so essential day-to-day parenting is changing. It’s fantastic and we don’t hear enough about that; it’s very liberating to be a new person in the world – even when you are a veteran.’

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This a beautiful film. Beautifully shot in the hazy Californian sunshine.