Lena Dunham’s new film, Catherine Called Birdy, is unlike anything she’s ever done, and she says that was by design.
Dunham wrote, directed and produced the coming-of-age story about a spirited 14-year-old girl growing up in the Middle Ages, and she told ABC Audio that she set clear intentions for what she wanted to accomplish through her film.
“I think it’s the first time I’ve ever thought about giving the world anything,” Dunham said. “I think previously I was always like, ‘I’m just gonna make things that speak to what I find weird and uncomfortable about life and hope somebody else relates.’ And it was one of the first times I’ve actually thought about leaving the audience with ... a feeling of joy.”
Bella Ramsey stars as the titular Birdy and says she felt that same joy while playing the character.
“She’s rebelling against everything that she can because she’s so frustrated by the birdcage that she’s metaphorically been trapped in,” Ramsey said. “And she’s so much fun to play. She’s funny. She’s cheeky, which I love.”
Dunham found inspiration in “everything from Clueless to Big to A League of Their Own,” as she made the film. “I think I always loved books and movies that I felt really honored the intelligence of young people, particularly young women,” Dunham said.
Recently, though, Dunham says she realized that films aimed at teenagers “had become much more about franchises and tentpoles and, you know, magical powers.”
“I missed the kinds of movies that seemed like they were really just about young people slugging it through adolescence,” Dunham said. “And this was a story that was certainly that.”
Catherine Called Birdy is available to stream Friday on Prime Video.